How was the metric system developed?


The International System of Units (SI), usually referred to as the metric system, is a contemporary unit of measurement that is widely used today. For measuring length, mass, volume, temperature, and other physical quantities, it offers a set of standard units. For example, how to visualize cubic feet (and meters). The creation of the metric system was a lengthy and challenging process that involved numerous people and cultures over the duration of centuries.

The metric system has its roots in the past, when different societies created their own methods of measurement. The demand for a standardized system of measurement didn’t become urgent, though, until the 18th century, particularly when trade and business in Europe grew. In the late 1700s, the French Academy of Sciences began work on creating a global system of measurement, which ultimately resulted in the development of the metric system.

The metric system went through various adjustments and alterations over time since it was not easily constructed. The metric system is today the most widely accepted system of measurement in the world and is utilized in commerce, science, and daily life. This article will look at the history and evolution of the metric system, from its inception to the present day as a complete system of measurement.


The French Revolution in the late 18th century is when the metric system first appeared. Trade and scientific cooperation were made challenging by the structure variety of various regional units that made up the French measurement system at the period. The French Academy of Sciences then recommended a new decimal-based system of measuring, which ultimately developed into the metric system.

The “Commission on Weights and Measures,” a group that the French National Assembly appointed in 1790, was charged with creating a uniform system of measurement. The group worked to create a consistent and logical system under the direction of French mathematicians and scientists like Jean-Charles de Borda, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, and Pierre-Simon Laplace.

On March 30, 1791, the metric system was formally established in France. It was initially based on the meter for length and the kilogram for mass as its fundamental units. The kilogram was established as the mass of one liter of water at its freezing point, and the meter as one ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the equator.

The metric system increased and changed over time. The kilogram prototype made of platinum and the meter bar prototype made of platinum-iridium became the accepted international standards for the metric system in 1799. As it provided a useful and reliable method of measurement, the system kept gaining influence and adoption in other nations.

The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) was created in 1875 with the signing of the Treaty of the Meter, which also formally recognized the metric system as the global standard. A framework for international collaboration and the creation of a standard unit of measurement was created by this arrangement.

Over the years, the metric system went through significant development. The metric system was expanded to include more measuring units than just length and mass with the introduction of the International System of Units (SI) in 1960. The second (for time), ampere (for electric current), kelvin (for temperature), mole (for substance amount), and candela (for luminous intensity) were all units included in the SI system.

Today, the metric system, in particular the SI system, is extensively utilized as the accepted measurement system in science, business, and daily life. It provides a logical, decimal-based methodology that makes it simpler to utilize and convert between various units of measurement.

Development of Metric System

Over the course of several centuries, scientists and mathematicians from all over the world contributed to the development of the metric system, often known as the International System of Units (SI). As worldwide trade and intellectual exchange developed throughout the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, it became increasingly clear that a standardized system of measurement was required.

The metric system is derived from the work of the French mathematician and vicar Gabriel Mouton, whose work established a decimal method of measurement in 1670. Mouton’s method was based on the length of the minute arc of a great circle, which he determined to be 1,852 toises (a measuring unit at the time used in France). Although this concept was well received by the scientific community, it did not gain broad acceptance.

The French Academy of Sciences established a commission to create a new system of measurement in the late 18th century. Pierre-Simon Laplace, a French mathematician and astronomer, served as the chairman of this commission, which also included Joseph-Louis Lagrange and Antoine Lavoisier. The commission chose to base the new system on the triangulation-measured length of the Earth’s meridian.

The new system, known as the “metric system,” was established by the French National Assembly in 1791 and was based on three fundamental units: the meter for length, the gram for mass, and the liter for volume. These units were described in terms of concrete things that were meant to serve as global standards. One ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator following the meridian passing through Paris, for instance, was used to define the meter.

Over the 19th and 20th centuries, many countries formally adopted the metric system after it quickly gained favor in France and other nations. The metric system is now virtually universally utilized, and it is the accepted measurement method for both scientific research and international trade. Over time, the system has been improved continuously, with new units and definitions introduced as necessary to reflect advancements in science and technology.

SI Seven Base Units

  1. Meter (m) – The distance covered by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 seconds is what defines this length unit.
  2. Kilogram (km) – This is the unit of mass, defined as the weight of the platinum-iridium cylinder used as the worldwide prototype of the kilogram and stored in the worldwide Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.
  3. Second (s) – The duration of 9,192,631,770 radiation-related periods that correspond to the change between two hyper-fine levels in the ground state of the caesium-133 atom defines this time unit.
  4. Ampere (A) – The definition of this unit of electric current is the constant current that, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 meter apart in vacuum, would produce a force between these conductors equal to 2 x 10-7 newtons per meter of length.
  5. Kelvin (K) – This is the temperature measurement unit, which is equal to a fraction of 1/273.16 of the triple point of water’s thermodynamic temperature.
  6. Mole (mol) – This is the measure of substance amount, which is equal to the quantity of substance that has the same number of elementary particles as there are atoms in 0.012 kilos of carbon-12.
  7. Candela (cd) – This is the luminous intensity unit, which is defined as the radiant intensity of a source with a specific direction that produces monochromatic radiation at a frequency of 540 x 1012 hertz and that is 1/683 watt per steradian.

Other units for various types of measurement can be derived from these base units, including those for velocity (m/s), acceleration (m/s2), force (kg m/s2), pressure (kg/m s2), energy (kg m2/s2), and power (kg m2/s3). The metric system is an important tool for measuring and characterizing the physical world and is widely utilized in scientific study, engineering, medicine, and many other professions.


Adoption of the Metric System

France, where the metric system was first introduced in 1795, was one of the first nations to adopt it. By the middle of the 19th century, the majority of the French-speaking nations had adopted the metric system, which the French government had made necessary for all transactions in 1812.

The metric system was first proposed in the United States in the late 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1860s that it really started to catch on. The metric system was made acceptable for usage in the US in 1866 after the Metric Act was established. It was not, however, generally embraced, and the usage of arbitrary units remained the standard. The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act, which was passed in 1988, encouraged but did not mandate the use of the metric system in the United States.

The metric system was originally adopted in the United Kingdom in 1965, but the use of conventional units was still permitted. The UK started a process of metrication in 1995 after the European Union mandated that all of its members use the metric system. This process is still ongoing.

The metric system was adopted at various times in several parts of the world. For instance, Canada started the metrication process in the 1970s, and it was finished in 1985. Australia started transitioning to metrication in the 1960s and finished in the 1970s. The metric system was established during the colonial era and has since become the norm in many African and Asian nations.

Most nations in the world today utilize the metric system, however, others continue to use a mix of metric and conventional units. The International System of Units is kept up-to-date, accurate, and consistent by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, which has a main office in France.

Advancement in the Metric System

Since its development in the late 18th century, the metric system has undergone many advancements and improvements. Here are some of the key advancements in the metric system:

  1. Redefinition of the base units – The kilogram, ampere, kelvin, and mole are four of the seven base units of the metric system that were redefined by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in 2019. These redefinition improved the accuracy and stability of the units because they were based on fundamental physical constants rather than physical artifacts.
  2. Expansion of the system – The metric system has grown through time to accommodate more measurement units for a variety of physical values. For instance, the metric system currently contains units for electric current, temperature, luminous intensity, and amount of substance, whereas the original metric system only included units for length, mass, and time.
  3. Adoption by more countries – The metric system has been accepted by the majority of nations worldwide, as was already indicated. This has encouraged cross-border trade and scientific cooperation while also helping to standardize measurement.
  4. Advancements in measure technology – Science is now more accurate than ever in measuring physical quantities due to the development of new and more accurate measurement tools. This has made it possible to conduct tests with greater accuracy and to comprehend the physical universe better.
  5. Increase use in everyday life – Not only in scientific and industrial uses, but also in daily life, the metric system is increasingly widely employed. People use metric units to measure things like distance, weight, and temperature in their daily lives because many nations have fully metricated their civilizations.


In order to produce a uniform, user-friendly method of measurement that was based on nature, the metric system was devised in France in the late 18th century. After the French Revolution brought about the commission on weights and measures and many nations throughout the world adopted the metric system, the system underwent gradual improvement. The metric system is the one that is currently most extensively used, and it is constantly being improved upon. The metric system has various advantages, such as building scientific advancement, standardizing measurement, and easing international trade and cooperation.