Accreditation and Quality Assurance

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1–2 | Cite as

Making the definitions of measurement units independent from arbitrary decisions (of worldly powers)

  • Paul De Bièvre

The SI system of measurement units made the definition of measurement units independent from the arbitrary decisions of Dukes and Kings who took pleasure, and exercised power, from defining and deciding mandatory measurement units for their territories. However, the authorities also imposed them as compulsory units to maintain law and order in a world where measurements were increasingly needed. Thus, many Duchies and Kingdoms had their own units of measurement; and there were many hundreds of them, all over Europe. One example is the Grand Duchy (from 1806 onwards) of Baden (Germany), who, in the eighteenth century, had 112 different ells, 163 different grain masses, and 80 different weights [1], which were needed in case money was involved, e.g., in financial trade disputes.

A remarkable attempt to create some distance from human arbitrariness was performed by an official public clerk in Oppenheim (Germany) who decided to make a measurement standard of length: ‘16 men, small and...


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    Feller U, METAS BERN-WabernGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KasterleeBelgium

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