'METRIC SYSTEM (METER, ante). The modern or decimal system of measurement Mkes name from its unit, the meter. It should be understood that all Indo-European nations originally counted by twelves. They were exposed to the influence of Ur-altaic races, who seem to have preferred threes and sixes. From the Egyptians they borrowed the count by tens, and from Shemites periods of sevens, and the double-ten or score. All these systems, complicated with varying units as bases, may be traced in the tables of measurement of modern Europe. Besides, although the value of place in notation was known to the Babylonians—and, in fact, it is not easy to write mixed measurement without assuming it—the general use of decimal notation in Europe dates only from the renaissance. Common measurements, then, do not agree with our notation, and the metric system does. It is not in itself best fitted for treating a universal unit, because it neither divides nor cubes as well as a series of doublings—the binary system. As, for instance, when 64 = 4s and 82 is written 100 = 43 and 102, and 256 = 162 is written 400 = 202: But the binary system is open to the slight objection that it takes eight naughts to express 512, and oktads are evidently more cumbrous than dekads. A system of dodekads would match our multiplication table, correspond better with the tradi tions of our race, and have the inestimable advantage of possessing 6 and 3 as factors, without which the circle, geometrie,ally considered, can hardly be grappled with. The meter is neither a part of an ascertainable distance nor the true portion of that distance as ascertained; the English yard, 39.13929 in., or the length of a pendulum vibrating seconds of mean time in vacuo, at the latitude of London and the level of the sea, being much more easily and surely measured. The advantages of the metric system arc that it is a settled measure, in use by more people than any one other, and that its divisions correspond with what must always remain the notation of the educated world. It was made compulsory in France in 1840 legal in England in 1864, and in the United States by act of July 28, 1866. Its friend; have as yet failed to render it acceptable to the nation, and apparently from misconception of the wants and prejudices of the populace. They have not decided upon any neat or consistent way of expressing its abbreviations, so that draftsmen and printers are either unwilling or unable to use them. They have
neglected to make for workmen comparative tables °lying its equivalents in the measures daily in use by them, and theT have never succeeded in giving to the public a few brief rules for interchanging quantities, not necessarily exact, but near enough for hourly use. It is plain that a sudden change in the whole system of measures of a country involves loss of time with perplexity and expense. The advantages of a decimal notation may be shown by retaining sorne known unit and the popular names, but with change of other divisions; as an English foot, but of 10 in. and running 10 to the pole, etc., very much like the temporary change by the Swiss confederation; or by fixing upon some point which nearly coincides, changing that by legislation to an exact part of the right system, and leaving to thne the gradual displacement of the more cumbrous. Thus the addition to an English inch in a yard made equal to a meter is easily made allowance for by tradesmen and workmen on a scale of the present pattern. This seems to account for the failure of the French law of Feb. 11, 1812.
The unit of the system is the METER, one ten-millionth of the calculated distance from the pole to the equator. See CHEMISTRY, ante (diaoTam). By. prefixina the Greek words deka, kekto, kilo, and myria for multiples, and thAatin decz, centi, and milli for divisionals, there results a series of terms, each increasing by a power of ten. The LITER, or cubic decimeter, of water furnishes a standard for capacity, and a subdivision of it, the GRAM, or cubic centimeter, for weight. We have, then, five kinds of measures, of length, surface, volume, capacity, weight, and (but not carried out) money. It must be noticed that the French law supposes a double and a half to each measure; that many of the divisions have not been adopted in common use; and that certain modifications based on a larger unit have been found convenient in practical and scientific use. One advantage of the decimal system is that when speaking, say of kilom. for distance, or milligr. for weight, we may write 19.736 kilom., or 113.26 milligr., that is without treat ing them from the scale of meters or liters.