Three notable anniversaries in 2015

Metric Views will be celebrating several anniversaries in 2015. In this, our first post of the New Year, we provide some pointers.

50 years ago – the UK takes a significant step forward.

On 24 May 1965, the Government Minister responsible for industry and commence gave a written reply to a Parliamentary Question as follows:

“The Government are impressed with the case which has been put to them by the representatives of industry for the wider use in British industry of the metric system of weights and measures. Countries using that system now take more than one-half of our exports; … Against that background, the Government consider it desirable that British industries on a broadening front should adopt metric units, sector by sector, until that system can become the primary system of weights and measures for the country as a whole.”

In May, an article on Metric Views will re-examine how the metric changeover moved from industry to the wider economy, how the recognition of the importance of single measurement system understood by all motivated this change, and the key role of education.

200 years ago – Waterloo, and the metric system survives Napoleon’s defeat.

On 18 June 1815, an allied army largely comprising British and Dutch forces withstood the advance of the French under Napoleon until the arrival of the Prussians late in the day ensures his defeat and abdication.

Napoleon was not a fan of the metric system. He disliked the inconvenience of surrendering the high factorability of traditional measures in the name of decimalisation, and recognised the difficulty of getting the metric system accepted by the general public. Under an imperial decree issued in 1812, he introduced a new system of measurement, ‘mesures usuelles’, for use in commerce and retail businesses. ‘Mesures usuelles’ included, for example, a foot divided into 12 inches and a pound divided into 16 ounces.

Fortunately by 1820, the Netherlands, including the Britain’s allies the Dutch, had adopted the metric system, thereby ensuring its survival as an international measurement standard. How this occurred with be the subject of a MV article in June.

800 years ago – Magna Carta says ‘let there be one measure’.

Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin: “the Great Charter of the Liberties”), was a charter issued by King John at Runnymede on 15 June 1215. Much is made, both here and in the US, of its importance in securing civil liberties and establishing the rule of law, and we are likely to hear a great deal of this in the media over the coming months. However, in an article in July, MV will be looking at how an issue relating to trading standards found its way into a document whose primary purpose was to resolve the power struggle between barons and the King.

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3 Responses to Three notable anniversaries in 2015

  1. Wilfred says:

    We should not forget that is also 35 years since the Government abolished the UK Metrication Board and abandoned plans for an orderly metric transition.

  2. The Glob says:

    The original target year for completing metrication of the UK has also been missed by 40 years now.

    It has also been 45 years since the metrication of road signs was postponed (the original target year being 42 years ago).

  3. John Steele says:

    I am aware the UK was not an initial signatory of the 1875 Treaty of the Meter. However, the 140th anniversary of that initial signing is this year. For me, that is the date that the metric system ceased being "French" and became an international agreement among the signatories, with those signatories having a voice in the further development of the system.


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