Why Was the Meter Invented as a System of Measurement?

During the 18th century, there were many different systems of measurement in Europe. One of them was the English system, using inches, feet, and miles, which we in America still use today.

In 1791, a group of French scientists proposed a new measurement system based on the number ten. The new system would be easier to use than the older systems, and could be used by people in all countries, making trade between nations easier.

The standard measure of length, called the meter, was defined as one ten-millionth of the shortest distance between the equator and the North or South Pole. It happened to be equal to 39.37 inches.

The meter was divided into ten parts, called decimeters; the decimeter was divided into ten centimeters; and the centimeter was divided into ten millimeters. The standard measure for large distances was the kilometer, equal to a thousand meters.

It wasn’t until 1875 that the measurement system based on the meter, the metric system, was accepted by many countries in Europe. Today, only the United States and a handful of small countries still use measurement systems other than the metric system.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

2 thoughts on “Why Was the Meter Invented as a System of Measurement?”

  1. historically, the meter was intended to be one ten-millionth of the shortest distance from the north pole to the equator along the meridian line through Paris. however, in 1960 the 11th General Conference on Weights and Measures adopted an atomic standard for the meter. The wavelength in vacuum of a particular orange-red radiation emitted by atoms of a particular isotope krypton. One meter is now define to be 1,650,763.73 wavelength of this light.(Physics part 1 by Robert Resnick and David Halliday)

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