Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/93

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METRIC REFORM.

yet the want of real progress may be seen in the following statement ("United States Dispensatory," Wood and Bache, edition of 1870, p. 1737):

"Though the decimal system of weights and measures was established by law in France, it was found impossible to procure its general adoption by the people, . . . . If they adopted new weights, they gave them the names of the old weights . . . . So that three systems are now more or less in use in France—the original poids de marc, the decimal system, and the metrical pound, with its divisions."

If such be the case in France, the birthplace of the system, what elsewhere? In the United States its use has been authorized for more than ten years; yet how many business men in the United States avail themselves of their legal privilege? How many druggists and physicians? What merchant uses the metre? What surveyor computes in hectares? What farmer measures corn in a hectolitre? Who weighs by kilogrammes, or buys wood by the dekastere?

The words are strange and the things unknown among men of business.

It is worth while to inquire into the impediments. Among these certainly cannot be numbered the merits of any existing system of weights and measures. Take the English tables, for example; they are utterly barbarous—the whole scheme confusion worse confounded; no one defends it as it stands. But there is nevertheless an impediment connected with this no-system which has been a serious bar to reform—a vague hope that somehow something might possibly yet be made of it hereafter. This indefinite hope is totally fallacious. There are two tests—the decimal scale, and a proper interrelation of the tables. The English method wants both. Nor can it be altered so as to conform to either.

Take, for example, the leading table of all, long measure, and apply the decimal test; it cannot stand it at all. If you keep the yard, for example, you can keep no other denomination—not one—for no other is decimally related to it; away go the inch, 136 of a yard; the foot, 13 the rod, 512 yards; the rood, mile, and league; the prime, 112 of an inch; the second and third, the fathom, the chain, link, etc., and all the promiscuous tribe of unrelated units. So it is impossible, if you choose the foot, to keep anything else. Indeed, make your own selection of a unit, and only that selected unit can be retained.

It is the same case with all the other tables; though, instead of one table of weights, you have three—apothecaries' weight, troy weight, and avoirdupois. Yet, among them all, there is not one single denomination decimally related to any other—not one of the ounces, drachms, scruples, or pennyweights. Even the so-called hundred-weight is not really 100 pounds, but 112.

It grows worse and worse as you study the uncivilized, unkempt system. If the decimal test did not at once and forever dispose of it,