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Four metric measuring devices: a tape measure in centimetres, a thermometer in degrees Celsius, a kilogram mass and a multimeter that measures potential in volts, current in amperes and resistance in ohms

A metric system is a system of measurement that succeeded the decimalised system based on the metre introduced in France in the 1790s. The historical development of these systems culminated in the definition of the International System of Units (SI), under the oversight of an international standards body.

The historical evolution of metric systems has resulted in the recognition of several principles. Each of the fundamental dimensions of nature is expressed by a single base unit of measure. The definition of base units has increasingly been realised from natural principles, rather than by copies of physical artefacts. For quantities derived from the fundamental base units of the system, units derived from the base units are used–e.g., the square metre is the derived unit for area, a quantity derived from length. These derived units are coherent, which means that they involve only products of powers of the base units, without empirical factors. For any given quantity whose unit has a special name and symbol, an extended set of smaller and larger units is defined that are related in a systematic system of factors of powers of ten. The unit of time should be the second; the unit of length should be either the metre or a decimal multiple of it; and the unit of mass should be the gram or a decimal multiple of it.

Metric systems have evolved since the 1790s, as science and technology have evolved, in providing a single universal measuring system. Before and in addition to the SI, some other examples of metric systems are the following: the MKS system of units and the MKSA systems, which are the direct forerunners of the SI; the centimetre–gram–second (CGS) system and its subtypes, the CGS electrostatic (cgs-esu) system, the CGS electromagnetic (cgs-emu) system, and their still-popular blend, the Gaussian system; the metre–tonne–second (MTS) system; and the gravitational metric systems, which can be based on either the metre or the centimetre, and either the gram(-force) or the kilogram(-force).