Metric System (Encyclopedia of Science)
The metric system of measurement is an internationally agreed-upon set of units for expressing the amounts of various quantities such as length, mass, time, and temperature. As of 1994, every nation in the world has adopted the metric system, with only four exceptions: the United States, Brunei, Burma, and Yemen (which use the English units of measurement).
Because of its convenience and consistency, scientists have used the metric system of units for more than 200 years. Originally, the metric system was based on only three fundamental units: the meter for length, the kilogram for mass, and the second for time. Today, there are more than 50 officially recognized units for various scientific quantities.
Measuring units in folklore and history
Nearly all early units of size were based on the always-handy human body. In the Middle Ages, the inch is reputed to have been the length of a medieval king's first thumb joint. The yard was once defined as the distance between English king Henry I's nose and the tip of his outstretched middle finger. The origin of the foot as a unit of measurement is obvious.
Eventually, ancient "rules of thumb" gave way to more carefully defined units. The metric system was adopted in France in 1799.
The metric units
The metric system defines...
(The entire section is 1146 words.)
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