Reference numberMS/427/366
Alternative reference numberMS/427 p69
TitleCopy letter from [Michael] Foster, Secretary of the Royal Society; to the Secretary of the Treasury
Date12 June 1884
DescriptionReplies in relation to the matter of the Bureau International des Paids et Mesunes, and the suggestion to join metric system in weights and scales. Acknowledges the Government's reluctance to go against perceived public opinion and to commit themselves. Considering the distinction between the commercial and scientific measurements, Foster states such distinctions are invalid in reflection. Explains that even the smallest mistakes in measurements, those that can only be measured by scientific appliances, can result in accumulations over time to 'gross and palpable mistakes.' Giving a commercial example, Mr. Whitworth's success was due to his need for measurement of miniscule proportions, 'called scientific', and had to invent method to measure 1 millionth of an inch. Also argues that the best way to validate the Metric system is through using the methods of the Bureau itself. Of the suggestion to undertake an independent verification of the Metric system, states the cost will amount to several thousand pounds, with Mr. Chaney's estimate of £5000. Joining the Bureau will allow for immediate verification. States simply joining the Bureau without becoming party to the Metric system should not be possible, although there is nothing in the articles of the convention to suggest a nation has to adopt the Metric system, and notes the Bureau has no executive power. States that joining in this fashion may be seen favourably by other countries without endangering public opinion. In addition, although remote, may be able to push the recognition of Greenwich Meridian time internationally at the Washington conference in return.
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