Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Measure for Measure
  • Published:

Political union through science

The metric system is one of the enduring achievements of the French Revolution. Martin Milton recounts how it was also intended to unite nations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. Bulwer, H. L. Essai sur Talleyrand 69 (Paris, C. Reinwald, 1868).

  2. Dupont, D. (ed.) Decree of 26 March 1791 adopted by the National Constituent Assembly (Archives Parlementaires, Librairie Administrative, 1886).

  3. Mémoires de l’Institut national des sciences et des arts, Sciences mathématiques et physiques Vol. 2 (Baudouin, Imprimeur de l’Institut National, Fructidor An VII).

  4. Preamble to the Metre Convention. Documents diplomatiques de la Conférence du Mètre (Imprimerie Nationale, 1875).

  5. Proc. 25th Meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures 289 (BIPM, 2014).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martin J. T. Milton.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Milton, M.J.T. Political union through science. Nat. Phys. 17, 286 (2021).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing