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The Metric System. The Language of Science. Origins of the Metric System. Before the 17 th century, the systems of weights and measures in Europe were very confusing. Units of length, land area, and weight varied from region to region. Solution?.

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The Metric System

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the metric system

The Metric System

The Language of Science

origins of the metric system
Origins of the Metric System
  • Before the 17th century, the systems of weights and measures in Europe were very confusing.
  • Units of length, land area, and weight varied from region to region.
  • In 1791 France developed the metric system to alleviate the confusion and differences among the systems.
  • However, the system didn’t become widespread until the 19th century.
  • The U.S. has not yet adopted the metric system.
the si system
The SI System
  • To keep track of conversions between all the different systems, the SI system was created.
the si system1
The SI System
  • All systems of weights and measures are linked through the International System of Units.
  • It’s called the SI system from the French term Système Internationald'Unités.
  • The SI system has an

approved set of prefixes and

base units that are the same

all over the world.

base si units
Base SI Units
  • The meter is used for distance,
  • the kilogram for mass,
  • the second for time,
  • the ampere for electric current,
  • the kelvin for temperature,
  • the mole for amount of substance, and
  • the candela for intensity of light.
derivation of the base si units
Derivation of the Base SI Units
  • The meter is defined as one ten-millionth of the distance from the Equator to the North Pole.
  • Also, the kilogram was designated as the weight of one liter of water.
  • Of course these are very difficult to measure, so the French were a little off.
si prefixes
SI Prefixes

giga- (G-)109 billion

mega- (M-)106 million

kilo- (k-)103 thousand

hecto- (h-)102 hundred

deka- (da-) 101 ten

(base unit)

deci- (d-)10-1 tenth

centi- (c-)10-2 hundredth

milli- (m-)10-3 thousandth

micro- (µ-)10-6 millionth

nano- (n-)10-9 billionth

If you combine the prefix and the base unit, you get the complete unit.


decigram, kilometer, millisecond

  • To convert from one unit to another, you must pay attention to the prefixes.
  • The simplest way to convert is to convert back to the base unit first, and then go to the desired unit.
  • See the next page for an example.