Monday, 1 June 2020


One thing which became very popular among us since the attack of Covid 19 is non contact Infrared thermometer to record body temperature.But why it is calibrated both in centigrade and Fahrenheit?  Recently as I searched more stuff on the subject, I have learnt that US is the only country in the world which doesn't use the metric system.Not left out single,  two more countries -Myanmar(old Burma) and Liberia-are there with US,but they too are on the way to adapt metric system....

The Americans still  love to use the foot, yard and miles mostly than the meter(metre).Weather forecasts there at times is equally confusing.If the weatherman  states that it is 32 degree Fahrenheit outside, it means it is freezing temperature to turn water to ice and not reasonably warm at 32 degree Celsius, as I have learnt!!When it comes to volumes of liquid, Americans bemuse  me with their ounces,cups, pints, quarts and gallons!!

Liberty,Equality and Fraternity is the motto which came into existence at the time of French revolution.The monarchy, nobles and the church who were the rulers of poor people were thrown out of power for the first time in the history of the modern world.The event was an epoch making one which influenced not only France but the rest of the world, then and thereafter.We all know that.But what most of us don't know is the fact that French revolution also gave birth to something we all use everywhere all the time.The meter.Yes, the unit of measurement!How the French derived one unit of meter(metre) is more interesting.One meter is one ten millionth of the distance measured scientifically between north pole and the equator through Paris!!

Welcome to fascinating history of Metric system...

Bi product of French Revolution...
The Metric system is simple, yet efficient to use as we all know.....except the Americans.All metric units were derived from the meter(metre), based on a Greek word Metron which means 'measure'.The French derived one unit of meter(metre) as one ten millionth of the distance measured scientifically between north pole and the equator through Paris observatory!Based on multiples of ten, metric system works...10 millimeters in a centimeter,100 centimeters in a meter and 1000 meters in a kilometer.The gram is used for weight (one cubic centimeter of water at its maximum density) and the litre for capacity is 1/1000 of a cubic meter

The French revolutionaries not only wanted to change the social order but also old traditions and habits wherever possible.They wanted to get rid of thousands of traditional units of measurements, conflicting to each other, used thus far in France and standardize them.The metric system  introduced in 1795 is thus a direct bi product of the French revolution but scientifically evolved.

In 1875 all the major world powers including US signed the Treaty of Metric which gave the Metric system its first official international recognition of Measurements. BIPM-Bureau of weights and Measurements- was created.Despite this the British authorities maintained their traditional English units which was known as Imperial system till 1957,while the US never introduced in their system.

In US....
When the British immigrants settled in US for the first time, they had brought the Imperial system of weights and measures with them.When the Metric system was introduced in France in 1795,US did not show any interest to introduce the system.However in 1866 US made the use of metric system in contract dealings and court proceedings lawful but not mandatory.

After WW 2 due to more and more globalization, US found it difficult to trade with other countries in this respect as all other countries were using metric system.In order to cope up with the situation US companies had to make twin labels while thousands of machines were re-purposed in different factories.This was a costly affair but US did not see any necessity to change to Metric system!

In 1971 US National Bureau of Standards issued a report recommending US to completely switch to metric system in 10 years.But such a proposal was made voluntary.So also in 1975 the Ford Administration passed a Metric Conversion Act in 1975 which was never properly implemented.As of now what I understand is  that US teaches both systems in schools but falls short of going exclusively metric in the country for their own reasons.Thankfully the NASA and US scientists use the Metric system exclusively.

photos/illustrations:courtesy google