As a conclusion


Recipes for metrication: first a governmental action

Is there a relation between governments' commitment to metrication and their political foundation? No clear answer, however it seems apparent that left-oriented regimes are more courageous than others are when introduction of a more modern measurement system is on the agenda: the decimal metric system was born in France in the wake of the 1798 Revolution. Russia, China have adopted it as soon as their peoples' governments were established. In Canada metrication proceeded well under the Liberal Trudeau and slowed down under the Conservative Mulroney. In the United States, Democrat Carter gave metrication a major impetus, soon stopped by Republican Reagan. In the United Kingdom the Labor government led by Clement Attlee launched the metrication process. Certainly exceptions to this rule could be found but generally speaking right-wing governments do not dare to oppose popular aspirations, such as reluctance to change towards a brand new system of measurement. Especially when this is labeled as revolutionary!

supported by an efficient communications program

The program relies on various communications tools: already in France in 1793 Haüy was in charge of drafting the famous "Instructions" and David of painting the generous allegories promoting the Republican months. More modern but of a similar technique were the Canadian pin-ups with measurements in centimeters. Miss Metric of New Zealand, a baby girl born the starting day of the program, was less questionable: her pictures and measurements were regularly published, but the process went so well that it was completed before she had time to get a form which could offend any puritanical old lady. A few countries, in particular Australia and Singapore, issued special postage stamps. Even songs were composed to promote the metric system, especially in France - in Great Britain it was rather to throw discredit on it, such as the famous Three-Foot-Rule written by William Rankine in 1874.

What could do the European Union?

Any type of action aiming at the adoption of SI by the last non-metric industrialized country, i.e. the USA. For instance within World Trade Organization meetings. Or simply by implementing EU directive 80/181/EEC: an article of this directive of 1980 allowed to use till end of 1989, together with SI units, "supplementary units"; that is, in practice, American units. It is obvious that making an obligation to the American industry to put metric labels on products exported to Europe would have strongly help popularize SI in the US. Unfortunately, under American industry pressure, a new 10-year delay was granted in 1989, and a third one in 1999. What will happen in 2009? Would, per mischance, the European Union again yield, then American people and American industry would be comforted in the use of an obsolete system - and European Union would once more reveal its weakness...

SI as a universal communications tool

We also should realize that in this era of globalization there are not more than five intellectual concepts participating in universal communication: written representation of numbers; signs of mathematical operations; chemical symbols; music notes; and SI. SI at least for 95 % of the world population.

Would that not be better if it would cover 100 %? It is up to us to ensure that such a token of gratitude being paid to the Funding Fathers of the metric system... and of the Republic.





Treaty of Metre

United Kingdom

United States


back to home page