Historical perspective: Unit of luminous intensity, candela


The units of luminous intensity, which were based on flame or incandescent filament standards in use in various countries before 1948, were replaced initially by the "new candle" based on the luminance of a Planckian radiator (a black body) at the temperature of freezing platinum. This modification had been prepared by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) and by the CIPM before 1937 and the decision was promulgated by the CIPM in 1946. It was then ratified in 1948 by the 9th CGPM, which adopted a new international name for this unit, the candela, symbol cd; in 1954 the 10th CGPM established the candela as a base unit; In 1967 the 13th CGPM amended this definition.

In 1979, because of the difficulties in realizing a Planck radiator at high temperatures, and the new possibilities offered by radiometry, i.e. the measurement of optical radiation power, the 16th CGPM adopted a new definition of the candela.

The present definition of the candela uses a fixed numerical value for the luminous efficacy of monochromatic radiation of frequency 540 x 1012 Hz, Kcd, adopted in Resolution 1 of the 26th CGPM (2018).


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CGPM Resolution 5 (1967)

SI unit of luminous intensity (candela)

CGPM Resolution 3 (1979)

SI unit of luminous intensity (candela)

CGPM Resolution 1 (2018)

On the revision of the International System of Units (SI)