During the French Revolution in 1790, the National Assembly of France asked the French Academy of Sciences to determine an unchanging standard for all weights and measurements. The commissions established by the academy developed a method that was both easy to comprehend and rational. Which came to be used officially by almost entire continents after France’s adjustment in 1795. 


For thirteen former colonies, which had already attained independence, this change came too late. Nevertheless, the United States of America, one of only three nations that haven’t fully embraced the metric system, has clung to the English units of its colonial past. Many Americans believe that units like feet and pounds are more intuitive, despite ongoing efforts to convert to the metric system. Ironically, some people view the once-revolutionary metric system as a sign of universal adherence. 


Metrics like the weight of a grain or the length of a hand weren’t precise and fluctuated from place to place during most of recorded human history. Additionally, different geographical areas used not only different measurements but also entirely separate number systems. The Roman numerals and fractions were mostly supplanted by the Hindu-Arabic Decimal System in Europe by the late Middle Ages. To promote common decimal-based metrics, however, intellectuals like John Wilkins had limited success.

Thus, any extensive adjustment would require significant disruption because there are a quarter million different units in France alone. And that upheaval occurred in 1789. The French Revolution did not simply overthrow the monarchy. They aimed to completely alter society in accordance with the Enlightenment’s logical ideals. The Academy of Sciences met to overhaul the measurement system once the new administration assumed office.


These new standards based on mathematics and natural relationships have replaced previous ones that were based on arbitrary authority or regional customs. One tenth of a meter, for instance, was defined as the distance between the North Pole and the Equator in Greek. The Marquis de Condorcet stated that the new metric system was “for all people, for all time.” For the revolutionaries, standardizing measurements had political benefits as well.


The nobles were unable to control local properties to raise the rent they demanded from commoners, while the government was able to collect taxes more effectively. Additionally, removing Sundays from the calendar in favor of a new Republican one with ten-day weeks diminished religious influence. This new system wasn’t easily adopted. It was actually a little bit of a disaster. People initially combined new and old units, and the Republican calendar was later dropped.


Napoleon Bonaparte permitted small enterprises to employ ordinary measurements that had been redefined in metric terms when he came to power. However, the metric system continued to be used officially and spread throughout the continent, including France’s borders.  Napoleon’s empire only existed for eight years, but its legacy extended for a much longer period of time. Upon becoming independent, a few European nations reverted to the previous measurements. Others understood the advantages of standardization in an era of global trade.

Other countries adopted the system after Portugal and the Netherlands made the voluntary switch, and colonial empires expanded it around the world. Britain, which served as France’s principal adversary, had rejected revolutionary ideas and maintained its traditional structures.  The British Empire, however, made a gradual shift over the course of the following two centuries, first approving the metric system as an optional choice before eventually making it official.


However, the metric system continues to develop in accordance with its fundamental principles and is nearly universally utilized in research and medicine. Standard units were actually defined by meticulously preserved physical prototypes for a very long period of time. However, standards based on universal constants are now replacing these things with limited accessibility and a questionable lifespan because of advances in technology and precision.


the same as the speed of light. It’s challenging to recognize the significant advancement for humanity that consistent measurements have made because they are such a crucial component of our daily lives. The metric system is still essential for future scientific revolutions, just as it developed from a political revolution.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carson Anekeya

    Great insight. Well explained. Thanks for sharing.

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