Early Measurements and Units of Measurement, and How We Obtained the Systems We Use To-day; Part III. The C.G.S. System

Edgar H. Booth


This is the third, and presumably the last article in this series.* It introduces the system of standards and of units universally employed by scientists, and one which is adopted internationally (with few exceptions) for general usage. It is not now a Continental or a French system, though it originated there and still has its headquarters in the French capital; it is an international system, controlled by "Le Bureau International des Poids et Mesures", the committee of which is representative of the people of the world; it is subsidised by practically all nations. Great Britain has been a member since 1884. France was responsible for its initiation. As in all countries, systems of units were many and confused in France in the 18th Century, there being many recognised but variable units for measuring the same quantity, values varying in different parts of the country. Attempts had been made to rectify this, but no definite or successful measures had been taken to bring order out of confusion. The French indulged, as we do to-day, in "pintes", "boisseau" (bushels), "onces", "grain", "mille", "perch" and such units. Then came the Revolution, and with it a burning desire to reform everything whether it needed it or not; fortunately the reorganisation of the nation's standards and systems of units was entrusted to skilled and meticulous scientists, so that the precision of their observations is still a matter. of admiration, and the system of units they established has remained, and has been adopted by the world.

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