Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

How America Kept Its Feet

Book - 2014
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Most of the rest of the world is on the metric system, and for a time in the 1970s America appeared ready to make the switch. Yet it never happened, and the reasons for that get to the root of who we think we are, just as the measurements are woven into the ways we think. 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.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2014
Edition: First U.S. edition 2014
ISBN: 9781608194759
1608194752
Branch Call Number: 389.15 Ma
Characteristics: 310 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 22 cm

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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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