Whatever Happened to the Metric System? How America Kept Its Feet

John Bemelmans Marciano. Bloomsbury, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-60819-475-9
Author and illustrator Marciano (The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield) reconsiders 200 years of history against the backdrop of a struggle to create a uniform system of measurement for the world. He addresses the origins of multiple forms of money, wet and dry measures, and figures for weight and distance, offering lively anecdotes about such problems as paying taxes in bushels of grain when the tax collector controls the size of a bushel. In that instance, what seemed an arcane issue resulted in the French Revolution, and that break from the ancien régime provided the opportunity to reconstitute all units of measurement, down to the hours in the day—though opposition arose as to the size of a meter, gram, and liter. From the founding of the U.S., there was a movement to go metric, but it was doomed by political and commercial resistance; the U.S. remains, alongside Liberia and Myanmar, one of only three nations in the world to use a different system. Readers will see a different side of metric enthusiasts—including Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson—as Marciano uncovers the relationship between metric system advocates and social reform movements. Marciano writes with humor and a keen eye, and his fascinating tales reveal how extensively measurement has affected history. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 08/05/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-60819-940-2
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-6007-1
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