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"The metric system is for all people for all time." (Condorcet 1791) Four objects used in making measurements that have metric calibrations are shown.
Three of the objects, a tape measure calibrated in centimeters, a thermometer calibrated in degrees Celsius and a kilogram weight are for domestic use while the fourth, an electrical multimeter which measures volts, amps and ohms, is for normal use by tradesmen.
From its beginning, the main feature of the metric system was the standard set of inter-related base units and a standard set of prefixes in powers of ten.
These base units are used to derive larger and smaller units and replaced a huge number of unstandardized units of measure that existed previously.
The metric system is an international decimalized system of measurement that was originally based on the mètre des archives and the kilogramme des archives introduced by France in 1799.
Over the years the definitions of the meter and kilogram have been refined and the metric system extended to incorporate many more units.
It was designed for ordinary people, for engineers who worked in human-related measurements and for astronomers and physicists who worked with numbers both small and large, hence the huge range of prefixes that have now been defined in SI.The base units used in the metric system must be realizable, ideally with reference to natural phenomena rather than unique artifacts.Each of the base units in SI is accompanied by a mise en pratique published by the BIPM that describes in detail at least one way in which the base unit can be measured.Until 1875, control of the prototype units of measure was maintained by the French Government when it passed to an inter-governmental organisation – the CGPM (CGPM).It is now hoped that the last of these prototypes can be retired by 2014.