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Metric System

units, measures, france, standards, measure, french and length

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METRIC SYSTEM ( from Lat. met rum, from Ilk. pl-op, measure, from perpeir, to measure). A system of Nveights and measures invented by the French in the latter part of the eighteenth century. From earliest times, civil ized people have possessed two ideas concern ing their standards of weights and measures: that they should be invariable, and that their prototype 5110111(1 be found in nature. All na tions have zealously guarded their standards. The Hebrews deposited theirs in their temples, the 1Zomans preserved theirs in the Temple of Jupiter; Justinian standardized the weights and measures of the Empire and deposited them in a church in Constantinople. Dagobert (died in 638) kept the standards of the Franks in the Ding's palace, and modern nations preserve their units in special archives at their capital cities.

Great diversity in the kinds of units and in the size of the same units has always character ized systems of measures. As early as 1558 llenry 11. tried to correct the standard units of France, and a Gabriel :Mouton, vicar of Saint Paul at Lyons proposed in InTo a system remarkably similar to the nwtrie system of to day. But not until 1790 did the French Gov ernment undertake the making of a new system. For this purpose a committee of the Academy of Sciences was appointed under the authority of the National Assembly and sanctioned by Louis NVI. The committee consisted of Borda, Lagrange. Laplace, Monte, and Condoreet. Of the three linear bases proposed, the length of a seconds pendulum, it quarter of the terrestrial equator. and a quarter of a terrestrial meridian, the committee reported in favor of the last, one ten-millionth of which should be the standard unit of linear measure. Delambre and were appointed to measure the meridional distance. from Dunkirk to Barcelona. the same task which Cassini had undertaken in leoTh. This task, diffi cult in itself. was made the more so by the ',oilfi eld of the ditto's. and required seven years for its completion. Tito finally computed length of the terrestrial quadrant was in part verified by a comparison with a similar result found by Bouguer and La Condamine in Peru (1736). The length, expressed in English meas ure, is 32.808,992 feet. Sir John Herschel has sime estimated the quadrant to be 32,813,000 feet, which makes the meter 1-208 of an inch shorter than one ten-millionth of a meridional quadrant. In 1793 a temporary eommission of

twelve was appointed, with Borda as president, to make a comparison of all the units then used in France, and to determine the kinds and com position of the metals to be used in constructing the new standard units, their forms of construc tion, and finally the place and means of their preservation. In 1798 the European States were invited to send representatives to a conference at Paris, the object being to examine the work exe ented during the preceding eight years by the various commissions. Nine States responded. Their delegates, together with the ten French commissioners, were divided into committees, which reviewed the work so far accomplished.

On June 22. 1799, the standard units. the meter and kilogram, were presented to the Conn ell of Five Hundred, and deposited in the archives at Paris. In December of the same year the Council adopted these standards. The use of the new system, however, was not made obligatory in all departments until 1837.

The hope of the inventors of the metric sys tem. that it would become the universal system of all civilized nations, seems likely to be realized, for, in one century, its use has been made obligatory in Germany, Austria-Ihmgary. Bel gium, Brazil. Chile. Argentina, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal. Inunallia, Servia, Norway and Sweden, Switzerland, and Venezuela its use has been legalized in Egypt, the States, Great Britain. Japan. Russia, and Turkey. The popula tions comprised in these two lists of nations are about equal, each being nearly 300 millions. Several attempts have been made to introduce the French system in the United States or to adopt a similar system. On January 15, 1790, COITL,WSS ordered the Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. to prepare a uniform system of weights and measures. .lefferson, who had been :Minister to France. reported, on July lith, a system founded on the length of a seconds pendulum in the mean latitude of the United States (38°), or in the latitude of 45°. But the Eng lish system was not disturbed. Again, in 1821, Congress sought to revise the system of weights and measures, and John Quiney Adams. Secre tary of State, recommended in the strongest terms the adoption of the metric system.

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