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Oliver R. Smoot

Oliver R. Smoot

American academic
The basics
Gender male
Education Georgetown University Law Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The details

Oliver Reed Smoot, Jr. (born 1940) was Chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) from 2001 to 2002 and President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) from 2003 to 2004. In 2011 the American Heritage Dictionary admitted his decapitalized surname, "smoot", as one of the 10,000 new words added to their fifth edition. The term is named for Smoot from his undergraduate days when he was used as a unit of measure during a fraternity pledge activity.


He received his Bachelor of Science from MIT and his Juris Doctor (law degree) from Georgetown University. Smoot, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, graduated from MIT with the class of 1962. He is primarily known in Boston, Massachusetts for the smoot marks on the Harvard Bridge, where he was used as a unit of measure for measuring the length of the bridge, as part of a fraternity pledging prank.

Smoot gave a speech to a hearing of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Technology on March 20, 2000, entitled "The Role of Technical Standards in Today's Society and in the Future".

He returned to MIT on October 4, 2008 for a 50th anniversary celebration, including the installation of a plaque on the bridge. Smoot was also presented with an official unit of measurement: a smoot stick. On May 7, 2016 he served as the grand marshal of the parade marking the centenary of MIT's moving from Boston's Back Bay into Cambridge.

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