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The Metric System of Weights and Measures

Nature volume 6, page 472 | Download Citation



PRINCIPAL BARNARD was appointed, in 1871, by the Trustees of the University of the State of New York to attend a meeting of the Convocation of that University, who were adverse to the introduction of the Metric System, and to enlighten them as to its real nature, and the immense advantages that would flow from its adoption. He seems to have performed his duty with great ability, and we hope with equal success. This volume contains a revised edition of that address, with considerable additions in the form of notes and appendices. Principal Barnard gives a very lucid account of the origin and nature of the metric system, narrating the recent progress of meteorological reform, and answering with what appears to us unassailable arguments the objections commonly urged to its universal introduction into all civilised communities. One appendix contains a long, interesting and useful dissertation on the Unification of Moneys, with some well-arranged information on what has already been prepared and done. In another appendix he describes and discusses the various experiments which have been made to fix on a standard for measures of capacity. His third appendix is on the legislation of Great Britain and of British India in regard to the metric system; and his last appendix contains some very interesting, and what many will deem astonishing, statistics on the extent to which the system has been already adopted. From this we learn that France, Spain, Holland, Belgium (and their colonies), Portugal, Italy, the North German Confederation, Greece, Roumania, British India, and nearly the whole of the countries of Central and South America, have adopted the metric system in full; they represent a population of 336,419,595. Wurtemburg, Bavaria, Baden, Hesse, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, and Turkey, representing a population of 84,039,209, have adopted metric values; while in Great Britain and the United States, containing a population of 70,373,091, the system is still permissive. In Sweden and Norway (population in 1867 5,897,159) the decimal division has been adopted without the metric values. Thus the peoples already decidedly enlisted on the side of the system include a total population of about 420,000,000. This looks hopeful, and there: seems no doubt that this rational system of weights and measures will ere long be universally adopted. One very remarkable fact the author mentions in confirmation of this. At the close of last century, the simple measure of length called the foot had not less than sixty different values—probably many more—actually in use in different parts of Europe; in 1867, there could be found only eight of this discordant class surviving. We would recommend Dr. Barnard's book to all who wish to possess a clear and intelligible account of the system and its many advantages within a moderate compass.

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