Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/92

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82
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

METRIC REFORM.
By SAMUEL BARNETT.

THE ultimate triumph of the metric system may be regarded as safe, beyond peradventure; no event still in the future is more certain. A universal system of weights, measures, and currency, is an imperative demand of advancing civilization; and this particular solution is worthy of the great problem, fit for all countries and for all time. It has the start, the prestige, the substantial merits, the already large adoption, which insure universality.

Its progress has in many respects been most gratifying. One nation after another has yielded to the arguments in its favor. Dr. Barnard's tables show that in Europe in 1872 France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Roumania, and Greece, had adopted it in full; Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Turkey, Baden, Hesse, Würtemberg, and Bavaria, adopted metric values, and even conservative England rendered the system permissive. The whole map of Europe is thus riddled—little of it left; the rest is sure to follow. So in North America—the United States, Canada, and Mexico; in South America—New Granada, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Chili, and the Argentine Confederation; and, among other countries, British India, the French, Dutch, and Spanish colonies, and Japan, are numbered. Thus, nearly all the most advanced nations of the earth are committed to it, and its universality is but a question of time. There will be no steps backward now, but only forward.

All this seems highly satisfactory and encouraging, and it may be asked, "What more could be desired or expected?" But there is another side to the picture.

Among the common people its progress has been as conspicuously slow as rapid among the nations. The statistics of its actual use, could they be had, would be heartily discouraging. In some way, and for some reason, upon the common mind it does not take hold. Indeed, in a discriminating view, its reception, even among the nations, compares unfavorably with that of many other inventions and devices of modern times: steam, railroads, telegraphy, photography, already cover the earth—all of later date than this system.

With all its admitted merits, the activity of its friends, and the co-operation of governments, the metric system makes no headway among the masses of mankind. As yet but a barren triumph has been achieved; the consent of the government, and not of the people, is the assent of the parents, but not of the maiden. Permission to woo is all we have obtained.

Even in France, although the system was provisionally established as early as 1793, and made obligatory, a full generation ago, in 1840,