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Role of Measurement Science in Today’s Society

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The science of measurement is called Metrology. Modern life and civilisations have been developed around the products of this science. All elements around us is a measurement of something. The beginning of the this science sparked from the need to define things in a standard way. The search for units of measurement led to the discoveries of the concepts such as distance and weights. The human body was an automatic petri dish for science to extract elements that needed to be measured. Production of goods such as gathering, cultivating, processing, and delivering were all activities that required measurement.

            Earlier civilizations used different objects to measure time, space and weight. Distance between stars denoted distance between places. Distance between full moons denoted time. The rhythm of the environment such as the low tides and high tides helped man measure the distance between his activities.

            “Thus some of the first units been created was the daktylos, palami, vrahiwn, poys, step, etc. In cases of measurement of distances of big scale, the units were constituted by the distance of stone shot, the distance that covers in one day one pedestrian, the period of the sun, of the moon etc. Depending on the circumstances similar units is still used.” (HIM, 2006)

            The necessity of measurement was clearly defined in man’s production of goods. Since resources within the viscinity of man’s defined limits were considered scarce, he needed to optimize his raw materials to produce goods and services in an efficient manner. Waste in his activities was sure sign that energy was being depleted and lost. He needed to know when rain would come to help him prepare the land for cultivation of his crops. Man’s knowledge of distances helped him travel efficiently. The measurement of weight helped man build machines to carry these weight while he traveled.

            In the modern world of the information revolution, measurement is needed more than ever. As populations and culture continue to increase and become diverse, the need for standards in measurement is essential so that a product or service can be maximized by a bigger population. For example, the establishment of the Euro as the denomination of the countries in the European Union helps Europeans to move across these nations easier.

Global corporations buy raw materials from different countries and sell products to global markets. Standard measurements are needed to make quality control easier as well. Global electrical products have built in voltage regulators that help make the product sellable to more countries who can have different voltage outputs. Other countries use 220 volts while other countries use 110 volts. The onset of new appliances enable consumers to eradicate their fear of getting their appliances broken due to wrong voltage settings.

            The creation of a standardized unit of measurement started when King Louis the sixteenth funded the creation of a decimal metrical sytem. Gabriel Mouton in 1670 proposed that the system must be based on something earthly and rigid, the most stable of all objects on earth. While he developed his thesis on basing the system on the length of a thin arc of the meridian, the French astronomer Jean Picard headed along basis of the system on a pendulum.

            After a decade, the unit of length was defined as a meter. The meter (which counterbalances with one-tenth millionth quadrant of length of meridian that it goes through from Paris) became the basis of the whole metric system. Other units were developed such as the volume, the cubic meter, the gram and temperature.

            The metric system was not as applauded by nations but its adoption slowly increased. The whole of France was obligated to use it in 1840. The growth of the metric system run parallel technological advancements in Europe and America.

            “In the end of 1860 became obvious the need for existence of more precise and explicitly determined units, because of the requirements being created by the new scientific discoveries. This became possible with the Treaty of Meter (Meter Convention) in 1875, an international treaty in which participated 17 countries among which was also the USA, while up to 1900, 35 nations had officially accepted the metric system.” (HIM, 2006)

            It was only in 1960 when the “International System of Units (SI) was clearly adopted by nations of the world. This adoption led to the full blast effort to improve the SI in establishing precision of instruments. Thus calibration became the next concept that measurement fueled.

            Calibration is a part of Metrology. “Calibration is the comparison of an instrument of unconfirmed accuracy to another instrument of known and even greater accuracy. The instrument of unconfirmed accuracy is referred to as the unit under test and the instrument of known accuracy is known as a measurement standard.” (2006)

            Calibration of instruments assumes that man made objects are prone to misalligments. Life or death or not, precision is important to processes that lead to vital decisions. Calculations, estimates are dependent on instruments. To use instruments that are not calibrated will pose danger to decisions.

For example, believer that there is no global warming happening shows evidences of misallignments of low orbit satellites that measure global weather elements. A minute deflection of an instrument when projected to space will mean geometric miscalculations that may have irrepairable consequences. Laser guided bombs used in high technology war fares will claim millions of innocent lives if these instruments are not calibrated on a regular and strict manner.

            Globalization will definitely expect more from Metrology. The challenge for the United States in this new millennium is to help its people, businesses and activities achieve better leadership by developing standards and operational structures vital for success in the global market. Metrology is important in helping meet this challenge because through this discipline, ethics and moral codes are protected.

            “Thus, an effective global strategy would be one that works to ensure fairness at the international level.  The playing field must be level so that one region does not dominate over others; so that developing nations have the opportunity to participate; and so that industry needs are met while protecting health, safety, and the environment.” (Kammer, 2000)

            The science of measurement can lead in helping multi-cultural, digial citizens in the global village gain understading that will work towards peace. Metrology is a language by itself. But unlike languages that have more complicated structures, this discipline is a likeable candidate to become a universal language in the future. Meaurement literacy is a skill of any trade. Knowledge of measurement will literally keep a community alive. Standardization of cultures is impossible and dangerous. While diversities are kept, metrology can become the unifying language of all the peoples of the planet.

            Another role of Metrology is the vanguard of ethical practices. When disputes takes place and subjective realties keep the truth from coming out, standard measurements based on precision and well calibrated values will help tip the scales. A meter is a meter any place on Earth. The averaging of measurement offer eradication of possible source for errors. For example, the meter stick made of wood would either expand or contract depending on the temperature of the place where measurement is done. But these problems have mathematical solutions.

            In other words, Metrology is the science so pure that it will be difficult to corrupt. And the good thing is, it can encompass a lot of other sciences therefore it also becomes a facilitator of other sciences in the quest for truth.


Bucher, Jay. 2004. The Metrology Handbook. ISBN: 0873896203

Hellenic Institute of Meterology. 2006. http://www.eim.org.gr/html/english/metrology/history.html

Klee G.F., Requirements of physicians for standardized/comparable measurements; Impact on medical decisions, Mayo Clinic (presented at a meeting in June 2002).

Raymond G. Kammer  “The Role of Standards in Today’s Society and in the Future” September 13, 2000 http://www.nist.gov/testimony/2000/rkstds.htm

Semerjian H.G., Beary E.S., Impact of Metrology on the Economy and Quality of Life, International symposium on Measurement Standards 2002, Tokyo, April 2002.

Williams G., The assessment of the economic role of measurements and testing in modern society, Oxford, United Kingdom, Pembroke College, University of Oxford, European Measurement Project funded under the GROWTH Programme by the DG-Research of the European Commission, July 2002.

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