Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Yard and Pound


Two Precious Standards That Are Carefully Guarded In London.

The originals of our yard measure and pound weight — otherwise the British standards of weights and measures — are sealed or walled up in the sides of the house of parliament at London. The cavity in the wall in which these precious standards are preserved somewhat resembles a tomb and can be opened only by tearing away the wall. The two articles which are therein so safely cased are both of metal. The yard measure is of bronze, in the shape of a bar, 38 inches in length, 36 sections, or one yard, having been marked off upon it with some finely scaled instrument. The weight standard is a cube of platinum, weighing exactly 16 ounces. Weighty as it is, it is scarcely more than an inch in extent on either side, and if sold for the metal there is in it would bring nearly $200.

Once every 20 years the walls inclosing these standards are torn away for the purpose of removing the two pieces of metal and comparing their length and weight with the official standards in use by the bureau of weights and measures. These comparisons are made under the supervision of the president of the London board of trade and several other officials appointed by the different branches of the queen's government.

Extremely delicate and elaborate apparatus for making these comparisons are used, and if the units in use by the bureau referred to have been changed or deviate in the least from the standards with which they were compared 20 years before they are immediately changed so as to conform with the original bronze and platinum types. The ceremony of "comparing the standards" was last made in April, 1892. After the comparisons had been made and no variations detected they were again walled up, with the understanding that they would not again be disturbed until April, 1912. — St. Louis Republic.

Comment: So that's interesting. I wonder if they still do that or if they've found a better system by now. They probably have. Like put a bunch of rulers in a closet and assume they're not going to change over 20 years. But if you want to get back to a pure original standard, this is a great way to do it.

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