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Metre Convention

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Title: Metre Convention  
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Subject: International System of Units, History of the metre, Metrication in the United States, International System of Electrical and Magnetic Units, Metrology
Collection: 1875 in France, 1875 Treaties, International System of Units, Measurement, Metrology, Treaties Establishing Intergovernmental Organizations, Treaties of Argentina, Treaties of Australia, Treaties of Austria-Hungary, Treaties of Belgium, Treaties of Canada, Treaties of Chile, Treaties of Colombia, Treaties of Croatia, Treaties of Czechoslovakia, Treaties of Denmark, Treaties of Egypt, Treaties of Finland, Treaties of Greece, Treaties of India, Treaties of Indonesia, Treaties of Israel, Treaties of Kazakhstan, Treaties of Kenya, Treaties of Malaysia, Treaties of Mexico, Treaties of New Zealand, Treaties of Pakistan, Treaties of Saudi Arabia, Treaties of Serbia and Montenegro, Treaties of Singapore, Treaties of Slovakia, Treaties of South Africa, Treaties of South Korea, Treaties of Spain Under the Restoration, Treaties of Switzerland, Treaties of Thailand, Treaties of the Czech Republic, Treaties of the Dominican Republic, Treaties of the Empire of Japan, Treaties of the First Brazilian Republic, Treaties of the French Third Republic, Treaties of the German Empire, Treaties of the Irish Free State, Treaties of the Kingdom of Bulgaria, Treaties of the Kingdom of Hungary (1920–46), Treaties of the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946), Treaties of the Kingdom of Portugal, Treaties of the Kingdom of Romania, Treaties of the Netherlands, Treaties of the Ottoman Empire, Treaties of the Pahlavi Dynasty, Treaties of the People's Republic of China, Treaties of the Russian Empire, Treaties of the Second Polish Republic, Treaties of the United Kingdom (1801–1922), Treaties of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, Treaties of the United States, Treaties of Tunisia, Treaties of Uruguay, Treaties of Venezuela
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Metre Convention

For a topical guide to this subject, see Introduction to the metric system.
Metre Convention signatories:
  Member states
  Former member states

Metre Convention (General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), it was revised and its mandate extended to cover all physical measurements. In 1960, at the 11th meetings of the CGPM, the system of units it had established was overhauled and relaunched as the "International System of Units" (SI).

The Convention created three main organizations:

Membership of the convention is restricted to countries who have diplomatic relations with France, but in 1999 the category of associate membership was introduced for those nations that wished to partake in the calibration and measurement aspects of the CIPM Mutual Recognition Agreement (CIPM-MRA) program without taking part in the activities of the BIPM.


  • Background 1
  • The 1875 Conference 2
    • Reference standards 2.1
    • Organisations 2.2
      • General Conference on Weights and Measures 2.2.1
      • International Committee for Weights and Measures 2.2.2
      • International Bureau of Weights and Measures 2.2.3
    • Headquarters, language and protocol 2.3
  • Post 1875 developments 3
    • Extensions to the treaty (1921) and development of SI 3.1
    • MRA program 3.2
    • Coordination of International Atomic Time 3.3
    • New SI 3.4
  • Membership 4
    • Member states 4.1
    • Associates 4.2
    • International organisations 4.3
    • Former member states 4.4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
    • Official texts 6.1
    • Citations 6.2


Woodcut dated 1800 illustrating the new decimal units which became the legal norm across all France on 4 November 1800

In England in 1215, clause 25 of the Magna Carta set out the standards of measure that were to be applied throughout the realm prefixed. The wording of the clause emphasised that "There is to be a single measure ... throughout our realm".[2] Five centuries later, when in 1707 England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom, the Scots agreed to use the same units of measure that were already established in England.[3] During the eighteenth century, in order to facilitate trade, Peter the Great, Czar of Russia adopted the English system of measure.[4]

Abuse of units of measures were one of the causes of the French Revolution and its reform was one of the items on the agenda of National Assembly. Talleyrand, an influential leader of the Assembly invited British and American participation in the establishment of a new system, but in the event, the Assembly went it alone and introduced the metre and the kilogram which were to form the basis of the metric system, manufacturing prototypes which, in 1799, were lodged with Archives.[5]

Between 1850 and 1870, a number of countries adopted the metric system as their system of measure including Spain, many South American republics and many of the Italian and German states (the Netherlands had adopted the system in 1817). In 1863, the International Postal Union used grams to express permitted weights of letters.

In the 1860s, inspections of the prototype metre revealed wear and tear at the measuring faces of the bar and also that the bar was wont to flex slightly when in use.[5] In view of the doubts being cast on the reproducibility of the metre and the kilogram and the threat that a rival standard might be set up, Napoleon III invited scientists from all the world's nations to attend a conference in Paris. In July 1870, two weeks before the conference was due to start, the Franco-Prussian War broke out. Although the delegates did meet (without a German delegation), it was agreed that the conference should be recalled once all the delegates (including the German delegation) were present.

France was defeated in the war, Napoleon went into exile and Germany and Italy, now unified nations, adopted the metric system as their national system of units, but with the prototype copy of the kilogram and metre under the control of the Third French Republic. In 1872 the new republican government reissued the invitations and in 1875 scientists from thirty European and American countries met in Paris.[6]

The 1875 Conference

The principal tasks facing the delegates at the 1875 conference was the replacement of the existing metre and kilogram artefacts that were held by the French Government and the setting up of an organisation to administer the maintenance of standards around the globe. The conference did not concern itself with other units of measure. The conference had undertones of Franco-German political manoeuvring, particularly since the French had been humiliated by the Prussians during the war a few years previously. Although France lost control of the metric system, they ensured that it passed to international rather than German control and that the international headquarters were based in Paris.[7]

Reference standards

Historical International Prototype Metre bar, made of an alloy of platinum and iridium, that was the standard from 1889 to 1960.

The conference was called to discuss the maintenance of international standards based on the existing French standards rather than using French standards which, at that time, were 70 years old and which, through wear and tear, might not be exactly the same as when they adopted in 1799.

Prior to the 1870 conference, French politicians had feared that the world community might reject the existing metre as it was 0.03% (300 µm) shorter than its design length ordering a new meridional measurement. They were eventually reassured when the German-born Swiss delegate said "no serious scientist would in our day and age contemplate a metre deduced from the size of the earth". When the conference was reconvened in 1875, it was proposed that new prototype metre and kilogram standards be manufactured to reproduce the values of the existing artifacts as closely as possible.[7]

Although the new standard metre had the same value as the old metre, it had an "X" cross-section rather than a rectangular cross-section as this reduced the flexing when taking measurements. Moreover the new bar, rather than being exactly one metre in length was a little longer than one metre and had lines engraved on them that were exactly one metre apart.[8] The London firm Johnson Matthey delivered 30 prototype metres and 40 prototype kilograms. At the first meeting of the CGPM in 1889 bar No. 6 and cylinder No. X were chosen by lot as the international prototypes. The remainder were either kept as BIPM working copies or distributed by lot to member states as national prototypes.[9] The metre was retained as the international standard until 1960 when the metre was redefined in terms of the wavelength of the orange-red line of krypton-86. As of 2012 the prototype kilogram was still in use, though it is expected to be replaced by a new definition within the next few years.


The Convention created three main

  1. ^ "Treaty of the Metre".  
  2. ^ Vincent, Nicholas, ed. (1215). "Magna Carta" (in translated into English from Latin). Runnymede. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Act of Union 1707, Article 3
  4. ^ McGreevy, Thomas (1995). The Basis of Measurement: Volume 1 – Historical Aspects. Pitcon Publishing (Chippenham) Ltd. p. 166.  
  5. ^ a b McGreevy, Thomas (1995). The Basis of Measurement: Volume 1 – Historical Aspects. Pitcon Publishing (Chippenham) Ltd. pp. 145, 151.  
  6. ^ Alder, Ken (2002). The Measure of all Things – The Seven-Year-Odyssey that Transformed the World. London: Abacus. pp. 348–354.  
  7. ^ a b Alder, Ken (2002). The Measure of all Things – The Seven-Year-Odyssey that Transformed the World. London: Abacus. p. 354.  
  8. ^ McGreevy, Thomas (1995). The Basis of Measurement: Volume 1 – Historical Aspects. Pitcon Publishing (Chippenham) Ltd. pp. 150–151.  
  9. ^ Jabbour, Z.J.; Yaniv, S.L. (2001). "The Kilogram and Measurements of Mass and Force". J. Res. Natl. Inst. Stand. Technol. ( 
  10. ^ "The Metre Convention". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "General Conference on Weights and Measures approves possible changes to the International System of Units, including redefinition of the kilogram." (Press release). Sèvres, France:  
  12. ^ "General Conference on Weights and Measures". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Convention of the Metre (1875), Appendix 1 (Regulation), Article 8
  14. ^ "CIPM: International Committee for Weights and Measures". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Convention of the Metre (1875), Appendix 1 (Regulation), Article 6
  17. ^ "The BIPM headquarters". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  18. ^ Convention of the Metre, Appendix 1 (Regulations), Articles 16 and 19
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Protocol".  
  21. ^ "System of Measurement Units".  
  22. ^ " [Resolution 10 of the 8th meeting of the CGPM (1933) – Substitution of the so-called "International" electrical units by absolute electrical units]""Résolution 10 de la 8e réunion de la CGPM (1933) – Substitution des unités électriques absolues aux unités dites " internationales (in French). Bureau International des Poids et Meseures. 1935. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  23. ^ Kennelly, Arthur E (21 October 1935). "Adoption of the Metre-Kilogram-Mass-Second (M.K.S.) Absolute System of Practical Units by the International Electrotechnical Commission (I.E.C.), Bruxelles, June, 1935". Proceedings og the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 21 (10): 579–583.  
  24. ^ "Resolution 6 – Proposal for establishing a practical system of units of measurement". 9th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (CGPM). 12–21 October 1948. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  25. ^ "Resolution 7 – Writing and printing of unit symbols and of numbers". 9th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (CGPM). 12–21 October 1948. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Resolution 12 – Système International d'Unités". 11th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (CGPM). 11–20 October 1960. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  28. ^ "Practical realization of the definitions of some important units". SI brochure, Appendix 2. BIPM. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  29. ^  
  30. ^ "BSI Education: Quality Management Systems".  
  31. ^ "ISO 15195:2003 – Laboratory medicine – Requirements for reference measurement laboratories".  
  32. ^ "Historical development of the CIPM MRA".  
  33. ^ "Text of the CIPM MRA".  
  34. ^ "The essential points of the CIPM MRA".  
  35. ^ Directive 98/79/EC of 27 October 1998 on in vitro diagnostic medical devices
  36. ^ "JCTLM: Joint Committee for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine".  
  37. ^ "International Atomic Time".  
  38. ^ Peter Mohr (6 December 2010). "Recent progress in fundamental constants and the International System of Units". Third Workshop on Precision Physics and Fundamental Physical Constants. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  39. ^ Crease, Robert P (22 March 2011). "Metrology in the balance". Physics World.  
  40. ^ Fischer, J. et al (2 May 2007). "Report to the CIPM on the implications of changing the definition of the base unit kelvin". Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  41. ^ "Resolution proposal submitted to the IUPAP Assembly by Commission C2 (SUNAMCO)". International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  42. ^ Ian Mills (29 September 2010). "Draft Chapter 2 for SI Brochure, following redefinitions of the base units". CCU. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  43. ^ "On the possible future revision of the International System of Units, the SI – Draft Resolution A".  
  44. ^ "On the possible future revision of the International System of Units, the SI". Sèvres, France: International Bureau for Weights and Measures. 21 October 2011. 
  45. ^ "General Conference on Weights and Measures". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  46. ^ "Members of the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM)". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. October 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  47. ^ "The Metre Convention". La métrologie française. 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  48. ^ Quinn, Terry (2012). From Artefacts to Atoms: The Bipm and the Search for Ultimate Measurement Standard.  
  49. ^ "Member States and Associates". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  50. ^ "The Republic of Serbia". BIPM official site. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  51. ^ "Serbia and Montenegro". BIPM official site. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  52. ^ BIPM official site:Procedure for a State or Economy to become an Associate of the General Conference
  53. ^ International Bureau of Weights and Measures official site: The Republic of Cameroon, retrieved 4 August 2013
  54. ^ International Bureau of Weights and Measures official site: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, retrieved 4 August 2013


  • Text of the current version of the Convention (in French)
  • English translation of the original text of the Convention
  • Text of the CIPM-MRA agreement

Official texts


  1. ^ As of 2012, the only "economy" that was an associate member was CARICOM (Caribbean Community) – its membership comprising Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Suriname, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Jamaica, although also a member of CARICOM, is an associate of the CGPM in its own right.
  2. ^ In the case of France, the French Foreign Minister
  3. ^ Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, German Empire, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Norway, Switzerland, Ottoman Empire, United States and Venezuela.


 Cameroon (1970–2012)[53]
 North Korea (1982–2012)[54]

Former member states

The following international organisations have signed the CIPM MRA:

International organisations

 Albania (2007)
 Bangladesh (2010)
 Belarus (2003)
 Bolivia (2008)
 Bosnia and Herzegovina (2011)
 Botswana (2012)
 Caribbean Community (2005)
 Chinese Taipei (2002)
 Costa Rica (2004)
 Cuba (2000)
 Ecuador (2000)
 Estonia (2005)
 Georgia (2008)
 Ghana (2009)
 Hong Kong (2000)
 Jamaica (2003)
 Latvia (2001)
 Lithuania (2001)
 Luxembourg (2014)
 Macedonia (2006)
 Malta (2001)
 Mauritius (2010)
 Moldova (2007)
 Mongolia (2013)
 Montenegro (2011)
 Namibia (2012)
 Oman (2012)
 Panama (2003)
 Paraguay (2009)
 Peru (2009)
 Philippines (2002)
 Seychelles (2010)
 Slovenia (2003)
 Sri Lanka (2007)
 Sudan (2014)
 Syria (2012)
 Ukraine (2002)
 Vietnam (2003)
 Yemen (2014)
 Zambia (2010)
 Zimbabwe (2010)

At its 21st meeting (October 1999), the CGPM created the category of "associate" for those states not yet members of the BIPM and for economic unions.[52]


  1. ^ Joined originally as Austria-Hungary
  2. ^ a b Joined originally as part of Czechoslovakia
  3. ^ Joined originally as the German Empire
  4. ^ Joined originally as the Irish Free State
  5. ^ a b Joined originally as part of Sweden and Norway
  6. ^ Joined originally as the Russian Empire
  7. ^ Joined originally as the Principality of Serbia in 1879, as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929 and as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2001
  8. ^ Joined originally as the Ottoman Empire


 Argentina (1877)
 Australia (1947)
 Austria (1875)[n1 1]
 Belgium (1875)
 Brazil (1921)
 Bulgaria (1911)
 Canada (1907)
 Chile (1908)
 China (1977)
 Colombia (2013)
 Croatia (2008)
 Czech Republic (1922)[n1 2]
 Denmark (1875)
 Dominican Republic (1954)
 Egypt (1962)
 Finland (1923)
 France (1875)
 Germany (1875)[n1 3]
 Greece (2001)
 Hungary (1925)
 India (1957)
 Indonesia (1960)
 Iran (1975)
 Iraq (2013)
 Ireland (1925)[n1 4]
 Israel (1985)
 Italy (1875)
 Japan (1885)
 Kazakhstan (2008)
 Kenya (2010)
 Malaysia (2001)
 Mexico (1890)
 Netherlands (1929)
 New Zealand (1991)
 Norway (1875)[n1 5]
 Pakistan (1973)
 Poland (1925)
 Portugal (1876)
 Romania (1884)
 Russia (1875)[n1 6]
 Saudi Arabia (2011)
 Serbia (1879,[50] 1929,[51] 2001)[n1 7]
 Singapore (1994)
 Slovakia (1922)[n1 2]
 South Africa (1964)
 South Korea (1959)
 Spain (1875)
 Sweden (1875)[n1 5]
 Switzerland (1875)
 Thailand (1912)
 Tunisia (2012)
 Turkey (1875)[n1 8]
 United Kingdom (1884)
 United States (1878)
 Uruguay (1908)
 Venezuela (1879)

Member states

[49] In April 1884 HJ Chaney, Warden of Standards in London unofficially contacted the BIPM inquiring whether the BIPM would calibrate some metre standards that had been manufactured in the United Kingdom. [Note 3] On 20 May 1875 representatives from seventeen of countries that attended the Conference of the Metre in 1875, signed the Convention of the Metre.

[47].Président de l'Académie des Sciences de Paris The opening session of each CGPM is chaired by the French foreign minister and subsequent sessions by the [46] though during both world wars, nations that were are war with France retained their membership of the CGPM.[45] it is implicit that member states must have diplomatic relations with France,[Note 2] that only wish to participate in the [Note 1] The CGPM recognises two classes of membership – full membership for those states that wish to participate in the activities of the BIPM and associate membership for those countries or economies


At its 23rd meeting (2007), the CGPM mandated the CIPM to investigate the use of natural constants as the basis for all units of measure rather than the artifacts that were then in use. The following year this was endorsed by the [11]

A report published in 2007 by the Consultative Committee for Thermometry to the CIPM noted that their current definition of temperature has proved to be unsatisfactory for temperatures below 20 K and for temperatures above 1300 K. The committee was of the view that the Boltzmann constant provided a better basis for temperature measurement than did the triple point of water, as it overcame these difficulties.[40]

Independently of this drift having been identified, the Avogadro project and development of the Watt balance promised methods of indirectly measuring mass with a very high precision. These projects provided tools that would enable alternative means of redefining the kilogram.[39]

Since 1960, when the definition of the metre was linked to a particular wavelength of light rather than the international prototype metre, the only unit of measure that has been dependent on a particular artifact has been the kilogram. Over the years, small drifts which could be as high as 20×10−9 kilograms per annum in the mass of the international prototype kilogram have been detected.[38] At the 21st meeting of the GCPM (1999), national laboratories were urged to investigate ways of breaking the link between the kilogram and a specific artifact.

Relations between proposed SI units definitions (in color) and with seven fundamental constants of nature (in grey) with fixed numerical values in the proposed system.

New SI

With the advent of the atomic clock it has been possible to define and measure International Atomic Time with sufficient precision that variations in the Earth's rotation can be detected. The International Earth Rotation Service monitors these changes relative to the starts and at regular intervals and proposes leap seconds as and when these are needed. Currently there are over 200 atomic clocks in over 50 national laboratories around the world and the BIPM, in terms of the mandate given to it under the Metre Convention coordinates the various atomic clocks.[37]

Coordination of International Atomic Time

Subsequent to launch of the CIPM MRA and in response to a European Community directive on in vitro medical devices,[35] the Joint Committee for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine (JCTLM) was created in 2002 through a Declaration of Cooperation between the International Committee of Weights and Measures (CIPM), the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC), and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).[36] The joint committee provides a forum for the harmonisation of standards of the various participants.

  • The agreement is only open to countries that have signed the Metre Convention, either as full or as associate members.
  • A country may have more than one NMI, though only one NMI is chosen as the signatory organisation.
  • The measurement capabilituies of NMI's will be peer-reviewed at regular intervals and each NMI will recognise the measurement capabilities of other NMIs.
  • The BIPM maintains a publically available database of the measurement capabilities of each NMI.
  • NMI's

The CIPM-MRA scheme is to catalogue the capabilities of National Measurement Institutes (NMIs) such as NIST in the United States or the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom whose calibration procedures have been peer-assessed. The essential points of CIPM-MRA are:[34]

International trade is hampered by one country not recognising the quality controls in place in other countries – often due to standards being different or being incompatible with each other. At the 20th CGPM (1995), it was recognised that although ad-hoc recognition of instrument calibration between cooperating countries had been taking place for a hundred years, a need had arisen for a more comprehensive agreement. Consequently the CIPM was mandated to investigate the setting up of a Mutual Recognition Agreement in respect of instrument calibration. Any such agreement would require the keeping of records that could demonstrate the traceability of calibrations back to the base standards. Such records would be recorded within an ISO 9000 framework. Four years later, in 1999 the text of the CIPM-MRA was agreed at the 21st CGPM.[32][33]

During the 1940s, the United States government recognised the benefits of its suppliers keeping ISO as the basis for ISO 9000.[30] ISO 9000 is a general purpose quality control standard which works in conjunction industry-specific standards: for example ISO 15195:2003 which gives the specific requirements for reference measurement laboratories in laboratory medicine.[31]

Logo used by laboratories that have been accredited under the CIPM MRA scheme

MRA program

The formal definition of International System of Units (SI) along with the associated resolutions passed by the CGPM and the CIPM are published by the BIPM on the Internet and in brochure form at regular intervals. The eighth edition of the brochure Le Système International d'Unités – The International System of Units was published in 2006.[29]

The CIPM's draft proposal, which was an extensive revision and simplification of the metric unit definitions, symbols and terminology based on the MKS system of units, was put to the 10th CGPM in 1954. In the proposal the CIPM recommended that the ampere be the base unit from which electromechanical would be derived. After negotiations with the CIS and IUPAP, two further base units, the degree kelvin and the candela were also proposed as base units.[26] The full system and name "Système International d'Unités" were adopted at the 11th CGPM.[27] During the years that followed the definitions of the base units and particularly the mise en pratique[28] to realise these definitions have been refined.

In 1948, three years after the end of the Second World War and fifteen years after the 8th CGPM, the 9th CGPM was convened. In response to formal requests made by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and by the French Government to establish a practical system of units of measure, the CGPM requested the CIPM to prepare recommendations for a single practical system of units of measurement, suitable for adoption by all countries adhering to the Metre Convention.[24] At the same time the CGPM formally adopted a recommendation for the writing and printing of unit symbols and of numbers.[25] The recommendation also catalogued the recommended symbols for the most important MKS and CGS units of measure and for the first time the CGPM made recommendations concerning derived units.

[23] This was agreed in principle by the International Electrotechnical Commission at its congress in Brussels in 1935 subject to the choice of the fourth unit being agreed with, amongst others, the appropriate consultative committee of the CIPM.[22] In 1901

Cover of brochure The International System of Units – the definitive description of the system

The metre convention was originally drawn up with the main purpose of providing a standards of length and mass only. Standards relating to other quantities were under the control of other bodies – time was measured by astronomers, electrical units by a series of ad-hoc international conferences,[21] and other physical standards and concepts were maintained or defined by international bodies such as International Congress of Applied Chemistry or the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

Extensions to the treaty (1921) and development of SI

The science of metrology has increased vastly since 1875. In particular the treaty was amended in 1921 with the result that many other international organisations have a forum within the CIPM to ensure harmonisation of measurement standards across many disciplines. In addition, what was originally conceived as standards for the purposes of trade has now been extended to cover a large number of aspects of human activity including medicine, science, engineering and technology.

Post 1875 developments

The French government offered the treaty members the extraterritorial rights (similar to those enjoyed by embassies).[20]

The original treaty was written in French and the authoritative language of all official documents is French. Communication between the BIPM and member states is, in the case of France, via the French Foreign Minister and in the case of all other members, via the members' ambassador to France.[18]

Pavillon de Breteuil

Headquarters, language and protocol

Initially it has a staff of 9, falling to 4 once the initial batch of prototypes had been distributed;[16] in 2012 it has a staff of over 70 people and a budget of over €10 million.[17] The director of the BIPM is ex-officio a member of the CIPM and a member of all consultative committees.

The International Prototype Metre which was retired in 1960. Over the years the various international prototype metres and kilograms were returned to BIPM headquarters for recalibration services.

International Bureau of Weights and Measures

The International Committee for Weights and Measures (Comité international des poids et mesures or CIPM) is made up of eighteen (originally fourteen)[13] individuals from a member state of high scientific standing, nominated by the CGPM to advise the CGPM on administrative and technical matters. It is responsible for the running of ten consultative committees (CCs), each of which investigates different aspects of metrology – one CC discusses the measurement of temperature, another the measurement of mass and so on. The CIPM meets annually at Sèvres to discuss annual reports from the various CCs, to submit an annual report to the governments of member states in respect of the administration and finances of the BIPM and to advise the CGPM on technical matters as and when necessary. Each member of the CIPM is from a different member state – with France, in recognition of its work in setting up the Convention, always having one seat on the CIPM.[14][15]

Seal of the BIPM

International Committee for Weights and Measures

The [11] It is also responsible for new appointments to the CIPM and decides on major issues concerning the development and financing of the BIPM. It normally meets every four to six years, The body comprises delegates from all member states. [12]

General Conference on Weights and Measures


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