Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

How America Kept Its Feet

Book - 2014
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The system of measurement for most of the world is the metric system, and for a time in the 1970s the United States appeared ready to switch from American standard measurement. The reasons it never happened get to the root of who we think we are, just as American measurements are woven into the ways we think. John Marciano chronicles the origins of measurement systems, the kaleidoscopic array of standards throughout Europe and the thirteen American colonies, the combination of intellect and circumstance that resulted in the metric system's creation in France in the wake of the French Revolution, and America's stubborn adherence to the hybrid United States Customary System ever since. As much as Whatever Happened to the Metric System? is a tale of quarters and tenths, it is a human drama, replete with great inventors, visionary presidents, obsessive activists, and science-loving technocrats.

Anyone who reads this inquisitive, engaging story will never read Robert Frost's line "miles to go before I sleep" or eat a foot-long sub again without wondering, Whatever happened to the metric system?

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2014
Edition: First U.S. Edition
ISBN: 9781608194759
Call Number: 530.812 M3328w
Characteristics: 8 unnumbered pages, 310 pages, 8 unnumbered leaves of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

The US came close to adopting the metric system not once but several times in its history. Find out why and how it never happened.

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icbenjamin Sep 17, 2014

The title and subtitle don't quite describe what's between the covers. I was expecting more of the psychology behind the tenacious hold that the US has on standard/Imperial measures. The opening chapter focuses on the author's remembered childhood when the country's politicians, educators and media were certain that the US was going metric and were loudly and constantly publicizing that certainty. And then suddenly, we weren't. The remaining chapters though, are a trip through history from about the 1700s focusing on constantly evolving weights, measures and currencies and the debates, problems, successes and failures governments have had during their adoption - or non-adoption - by their populace. This is a very well researched and entertaining book, but never quite answers the question of why and how the US never formally adopted any of the internationally proposed metric systems. Well worth reading for the history and the author's literary style.


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papachaucer Oct 02, 2015

I read this as an audiobook, and thus missed out on the illustrations and on the two appendices. Nevertheless, the text of the book itself was fun and informative. The book starts near the end of the story and then back tracks through weights and measurements history starting in the 1700s.

It's a fun trip overall, and worth one's time.


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