Mesures usuelles

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Mesures usuelles (French pronunciation:  [məzyʁ yzɥɛl] , customary measurements) were a system of measurement introduced by Napoleon I in 1812 to act as compromise between the metric system and traditional measurements. The system was restricted to use in the retail industry and continued in use until 1839.

Measurement Process of assigning numbers to objects or events

Measurement is the assignment of a number to a characteristic of an object or event, which can be compared with other objects or events. The scope and application of measurement are dependent on the context and discipline. In the natural sciences and engineering, measurements do not apply to nominal properties of objects or events, which is consistent with the guidelines of the International vocabulary of metrology published by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. However, in other fields such as statistics as well as the social and behavioral sciences, measurements can have multiple levels, which would include nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio scales.


Rationale behind the new system

The ordinary measures were introduced by Napoleon I in 1812 Napoleon Groot.jpg
The ordinary measures were introduced by Napoleon I in 1812

In the five years immediately before the French First Republic introduced the metric system, every effort was made to make the citizens aware of the upcoming changes and to prepare them for it. [1] The administration distributed tens of thousands of educational pamphlets, private enterprise produced educational games, guides, almanacs and conversion aids, and metre standards were built into the walls of prominent buildings around Paris. [1] The introduction was phased by district over the next few years, with Paris being the first district to change. The government also realised that the people would need metre rulers, but they had only provided 25,000 of the 500,000 rulers needed in Paris as late as one month after the metre became the sole legal unit of measure. [1] To compensate, the government introduced incentives for the mass-production of rulers. Paris police reported widespread flouting of the requirement for merchants to use only the metric system. [1] Where the new system was in use, it was abused, with shopkeepers taking the opportunity to round prices up and to give smaller measures. [1]

French First Republic republic governing France, 1792-1804

In the history of France, the First Republic, officially the French Republic, was founded on 22 September 1792 during the French Revolution. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First Empire in 1804 under Napoleon, although the form of the government changed several times. This period was characterized by the fall of the monarchy, the establishment of the National Convention and the Reign of Terror, the Thermidorian Reaction and the founding of the Directory, and, finally, the creation of the Consulate and Napoleon's rise to power.

Metric system decimal system of units of measurement

The metric system is an internationally recognised decimalised system of measurement. It is in widespread use, and where it is adopted, it is the only or most common system of weights and measures. It is now known as the International System of Units (SI). It is used to measure everyday things such as the mass of a sack of flour, the height of a person, the speed of a car, and the volume of fuel in its tank. It is also used in science, industry and trade.

The Mesures usuelles were abolished by Louis-Philippe in 1839 Louis-Philippe-France.png
The Mesures usuelles were abolished by Louis-Philippe in 1839

Napoleon I, the French Emperor, disliked the inconvenience of surrendering the high factorability of traditional measures in the name of decimalisation, and recognized the difficulty of getting it accepted by the populace. [2] Under the décret impérial du 12 février 1812 (imperial decree of 12 February 1812), he introduced a new system of measurement, the mesures usuelles or "customary measures", for use in small retail businesses. However, all government, legal and similar works still had to use the metric system and the metric system continued to be taught at all levels of education. [3] [4]

Factorization decomposition of an object into a product of other objects

In mathematics, factorization or factoring consists of writing a number or another mathematical object as a product of several factors, usually smaller or simpler objects of the same kind. For example, 3 × 5 is a factorization of the integer 15, and (x – 2)(x + 2) is a factorization of the polynomial x2 – 4.

Decimal numeral system with ten as its base

The decimal numeral system is the standard system for denoting integer and non-integer numbers. It is the extension to non-integer numbers of the Hindu–Arabic numeral system. The way of denoting numbers in the decimal system is often referred to as decimal notation.

The prototypes of the metric unit, the kilogram and the metre, enabled an immediate standardization of measurement over the whole country, replacing the varying legal measures in different parts of the country, and even more across the whole of Europe. The new livre (known as the livre métrique) was defined as five hundred grams, and the new toise (toise métrique) was defined as two metres. Products could be sold in shops under the old names and with the old relationships to one another, but with slightly different absolute sizes. This series of measurements was called mesures usuelles.

Prototype early sample or model built to test a concept or process

A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semantics, design, electronics, and software programming. A prototype is generally used to evaluate a new design to enhance precision by system analysts and users. Prototyping serves to provide specifications for a real, working system rather than a theoretical one. In some design workflow models, creating a prototype is the step between the formalization and the evaluation of an idea.

Kilogram SI unit of mass

The kilogram or kilogramme is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units (SI). Until 20 May 2019, it remains defined by a platinum alloy cylinder, the International Prototype Kilogram, manufactured in 1889, and carefully stored in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris. After 20 May, it will be defined in terms of fundamental physical constants.

The metre or meter is the base unit of length in the International System of Units (SI). The SI unit symbol is m. The metre is defined as the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299 792 458 of a second.

Napoleon's decree was revoked during the reign of Louis Philippe by the loi du 4 juillet 1837 (law of 4 July 1837). This took effect on 1 January 1840, and reinstated the original metric system, thus bringing the system of mesures usuelles to an end. [3]

Permitted units

The law authorised the following units of measure: [5]

The mesures usuelles did not include any units of length greater than the toise - the myriamètre (10 km) remaining in use throughout this period. [7]

See also

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Comparison of the imperial and US customary measurement systems

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Alder, Ken (2002). The Measure of all Things - The Seven-Year-Odyssey that Transformed the World. London: Abacus. ISBN   0-349-11507-9.
  2. Napoleon I (19 December 1809). "Letter to Général Clarke, duc de Feltre". Correspondance de Napoléon Ier: publiée par ordre de l'empereur Napoléon III. Retrieved 2011-02-10. Je me moque des divisions décimales [I don't care about decimal divisions]
  3. 1 2 Denis Février. "Un historique du mètre" (in French). Ministère de l'Economie, des Finances et de l'Industrie. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
  4. For example the engineering textbook, Stéphane Flachat (1835). Traité élémentaire de méchanique industrielle. Paris. Retrieved 2011-02-17.
  5. Hallock, William; Wade, Herbert T (1906). "Outlines of the evolution of weights and measures and the metric system". London: The Macmillan Company. pp. 66–69.
  6. Thierry Sabot (1 October 2000). "Les poids et mesures sous l'Ancien Régime" [The weights and measures of the Ancien Régime] (in French). histoire-genealogie. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
  7. 1 2 Appell, Wolfgang (2009-09-16) [2002]. "Königreich Frankreich" [Kingdom of France]. Amtliche Maßeinheiten in Europa 1842 [Official units of measure in Europe 1842] (in German). Archived from the original on 2011-10-05. Retrieved 2011-02-10 (Website based on Alte Meß- und Währungssysteme aus dem deutschen Sprachgebiet, ISBN   3-7686-1036-5.)