**The Metre (or
Meter)**

In 1793, during
Napoleon's time, the French government adopted a new system of
standards called the *metric system*, based on what they
called the *metre*. Relying on the assumed constancy of
the earth's size as a basis for the permanency of their
standards, this unit was reckoned to be one ten-millionth part of
the distance from North Pole to Equator measured on a straight
line running along the surface of the earth through Paris. Other
linear units of the system were then set up in decimal ratios
with the metre. Of particular interest in the present context is
the *millimetre - *one thousandth part of a metre.

When first introduced
the new system was not popular. Indeed, Napoleon finally was
forced to abandon it. But, in 1837, France returned to the metre,
this time for good, hoping to make it universal throughout the
world. Today almost all countries use a modernized metric system
called *SI*.

VJ: 2002-01-31