Sir Thomas Stanton was Superintendent of NPL's Engineering Department from 1901 to 1930. One of NPL's earliest areas of research after its foundation was in the magnitude and distribution of wind forces on structures such as bridges and roofs.
Stanton realised that invaluable information could be obtained from experiments on small models in an artificial current of air. In 1908, following the first aeroplane flights in Europe by the Wright brothers, Stanton was invited to apply his methods to various problems of aeroplane and airship design. He pioneered the use of wind tunnel testing for this purpose and in 1919 the Duplex wind tunnel was completed.
The success of his research led to rapid advances in the efficiency and safety of the aeroplane and to increased recognition of the general value of scientific research in its application to engineering problems.