Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/745

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


APPLETONS’

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

OCTOBER, 1896.



THE METRIC SYSTEM.
By Prof. T. C. MENDENHALL,

PRESIDENT WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE.

IN the June number of this Journal there appeared a paper on the Metric System, by Herbert Spencer. It was originally published as a series of anonymous letters in the London Times, in the course of a discussion growing out of proposed legislation by the English Parliament. They aroused little interest among metrologists, except as examples of "curious and interesting reading," until their authorship was acknowledged by Spencer. No little astonishment was created by this announcement, and as a matter of fact, owing to the extraordinary character of the letters and the great fame and reputation of Mr. Spencer, the statement was not at first credited by many. Indeed, messages were sent to London, inquiring, "Who is this Herbert Spencer who is writing about the metric system?" These things are worth mentioning, to show the surprise everywhere manifested, not on account of the fact that Mr. Spencer was opposed to the adoption of the suggested reform in weights and measures, but rather at the singular arguments which he advanced in defense of his position. Without a single exception they had all been traversed more than a quarter of a century ago; their inherent weakness and entire lack of philosophic consistency had long ago been pointed out; and it is perfectly safe to say that, with possibly one exception, they are such as no one familiar with the progress of metrology during the past quarter of a century would think of offering at the present time, however strongly opposed to the metre and its derivatives he might be. The great influence which everywhere and always goes with the name of the distinguished