The Metre Convention and world-wide comparability of measurement results
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In early times the provision of weights and measures was the prerogative of kings and emperors. The Romans had a highly developed system based upon the “pes” (foot) and the “libra” (pound), the unit of capacity (the amphora) being a cubic “pes”. The 15th century “Pile of Charlemagne” (a weight of about 490 g), the “avoir du poids” pound of Elizabeth 1st (453 g), the Pied du Roi (32.5 cm—one sixth of a Toise) and the foot (30.5 cm—one third of a yard), were all defined for the purpose of standardizing weights and measures for trade. By the middle of the 19th century, however, it had become clear that the absence of international agreement on units of measurement was becoming an impediment to the growth of international trade in manufactured and industrial products.
By the time of the Great Exhibitions of 1851 in London and 1867 in Paris, the decimal metric system, created at the time of the French revolution, had become widely used not only in France but also in most other...