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The International Metre Commission (1870-1872)
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In 1867 at its meeting in Berlin, the International Conference of Geodesy stressed the importance of a unique system of weights and measures in Europe (the Metric System). They recommended the construction of a new European prototype of the metre and the creation of an international commission. The French Académie des Sciences and the Bureau des Longitudes in Paris drew the attention of the French government to this subject. The Academy of St Petersburg and the English Standards Commission were also in agreement with this recommendation.

On 1 September 1869, Emperor Napoleon III approved by decree a report of the French Ministry for Agriculture and Trade proposing the creation of an international scientific commission to propagate the use of metric measurements and to facilitate trade and comparisons of measurements between States, and to carry out the construction of an international metre prototype (with lateral lines engraved on the bar of platinum iridium) thereby giving France a leading role.

On 16 November 1869, the French government sent invitations for members of this commission. Favourable responses were received from: Austria-Hungary, Bavaria, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, the Roman State, the United States of America, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Nicaragua, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Prussia and the Confederation of North Germany, Russia, El Salvador, Sweden and Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela and Wurtenberg.

The International Metre Commission, with a French section, was established in 1870 in Paris. It met at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) in Paris from 8 to 13 August 1870, and entrusted the study of the technical questions to a committee of preparatory research, which met from 2 to 14 April 1872. The activities of the Commission, animated by General Morin, a member of the Institute and Director of the French Academy, resumed from 24 September to 12 October 1872, to continue its work and to make final decisions, with the participation of about thirty countries, including ten pertaining to the American continent. Their work led to the manufacture of new metric prototypes and later on, to the signature of the Metre Convention and the creation of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (the BIPM).



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