The British Weights & Measures Association
Metrication - the persecution begins
Metric Martyrs - Press release: 8th August 2001
Perspectives Magazine
What's the weather like?
French wines
Le Corbusier's "Modulor"
International Coalition Against Metric­Only Labelling
Opposition in the USA
Proportionality; Ergonomics;Cognitive Reducibility
A Song (c1874)
The Earth And The Moon
Metric Muddle on Mars
Consumer Survey
Metric Madness (a letter from Mike Rooth)
Sir John Hirschel's letter to The Times, 1869
Sports Report
That's Beside The Point!
Back to the Dark Ages?
and finally...

Links to other pages
Recommended reading


The world is slowly being forced by governments, civil servants and multi-national industries into adopting the metric measurement system in place of the traditional systems which have been in use for centuries, for millenia in fact. The use of metric units has been legally acceptable in the UK since 1897 and in the USA since 1866 and yet the traditional system prevails in spite of this option. If metric were an improvement on traditional measurements then it would have been universally adopted long ago. The truth is that metric offers no advantages to people in their daily lives and will never be used unless it is forced upon us by criminalising the use of imperial measurement, something which is happening now in the UK and has happened in every other country where metric is used. In fact, the people of other countries have never voluntarily adopted metric, it has always been imposed upon them against their will by politicians and bureaucrats.

These few pages are offered by way of a defence against this compulsory conversion and against the criminalisation of ordinary people exercising their right to choose.

The traditional ways of measuring are, and always have been, based on the human frame and are a way of relating mankind to the universe, surprising as that may seem. The poet John Dryden explains this much more succinctly than I ever could:

From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran
The diapason closing full in Man.

The idea that "Man is the measure of all things" (Protagorus 481 - 411 BC) has been fundamental to philosophical thought through the ages and is a constantly recurring theme in virtually every field of human endeavour; for example in the seventeenth century, Gerard Thibault in his L'Académie de L'Espée wrote:
"Architects both ancient and modern have not been able to find anything else in the world which could serve better as a measure according to which they should design the arrangement of their works than this model, man."

Metric is a (scientific) way of measuring the world as if we were not in it, not a part of it. But we are in the world, we are a part of it and we need a measurement system which takes account of our existence and which allows us to know our place in relation to nature. If we understand that we are part of nature then we will be less inclined to destroy it.

Return to Index

Perspectives magazine

The following is the text of an article written in October 1995 for Perspectives, a magazine dedicated to traditional architecture and to the craftsmanship required for the preservation and maintenance of our built environment. The article was timed to coincide with the British Government's compulsory use of metric measurement for all goods and services in the UK, a legal requirement which is widely ignored and disliked by the majority of people. The article is a reflection of the merits or otherwise of its use in the building industry where it has been compulsory for 30 years. For reasons best known to the editors, the article was never published. It would seem that their commitment to traditional values does not include that most fundamental of requirements in the construction industry; i.e. the practical use of measurements to transcribe drawings into real life buildings.

In 1965 the building industry decided to change to the use of French Decimal measurement, commonly known as the Metric system. Thirty years on and with the rest of industry now obliged to follow suit, perhaps it is time for a progress report. No one seems to have asked yet; has it worked? is everyone happy with it? is it easier, as the metricators claim, or is it harder? is it better than the traditional system or worse?

Working in the industry, I went along with this idea at the time without giving it much thought. In those days people still had faith in politicians and business leaders and believed that they knew what they were doing. Now that I have spent a number of years studying the history of architecture and of building, I have discovered how and why we arrive at the measurements we have always used.

The first and most striking thing about the 1965 change is that there has been no change. The industry carried on using and continues to use the same materials in the same sizes but with different unit values. Thus a brick is still 9" long but is now designated as 225mm. The standard door size remains at 6'6" x 2'6" but now has what appears to be a code number of 1981x762mm. Why is this? Where are the materials/components which are whole units of 1 or 2 metres or natural multiples/divisions such as 250mm or 500mm? There seems little point in adopting a system of measurement whose basic unit is incompatible with the building process in terms of sizes required to build a house, for example, which is correctly proportioned relative to the size of the people who live in that house. After 30 years, it is apparent that the metric unit of 1 metre is too large and 1 centimetre is too small to be used comfortably in the building process. This is relevant in the rest of Europe too, by the way. Did you know that in Spain they still build brickwalls one foot thick (ladrillo de un pie)?

Those who know their history will know that the metre was invented in France in 1790 and is, allegedly, one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator. The invention of the metre was part of the Revolutionaries' rational and scientific response to what they regarded as the superstitions of the past. By contrast, the British Imperial system (as used by the Greeks and the Romans as well as in pre-revolutionary France) is anthropometric which means it is based on the human frame. From time immemorial units of measure have been derived from the human figure: palm, hand, foot, cubit etc. Some fall out of use and become archaic but those which remain do so for the very good reason that they are convenient, practical, easy to understand and, above all, easy to visualise which is a necessary part of translating working drawings into a built structure. This was clearly demonstrated to me when I recently had a garage built. The workmen, all of whom were under 30 years of age were thinking and working in feet and inches - 18" deep foundations, 4" step etc. When any change such as that wrought in 1965 is mooted, nobody ever consults the real experts, the people who actually do the work. Where theory and practice do not coincide then theory is wrong and practice is right. Or to put it another way - in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. Remember that according to aerodynamic theory it is impossible for a bee to fly!

It must be obvious to anyone who cares to think about it that an anthropometric unit such as the foot is preferable to a theoretical unit such as the metre. The metre, in fact, has had its official length changed no less than three times since 1790 (the latest being in 1965) and is currently deemed to be 1/299,792,458th of the distance light travels in one second. That's a real handy reference next time you are measuring a room for carpets or wallpaper.

The second aspect of the metric system is that it is based on the number 10 rather than 12. The superiority of duodecimals over decimals involves some esoteric reasoning which is too complicated to go into here but you may wish to refer to Plato's ideal cities of Magnesia (duodecimal) and Atlantis (decimal) and we all know what happened to Atlantis... Suffice to say that 12 can be easily divided into thirds and quarters whereas 10 cannot. (Ref 1. below)

The reasons put forward in support of metric are far from compelling. They range from the feeble (everyone else uses it) to the dimwitted (we have ten fingers for counting on). There has never been, to my knowledge, a logical demonstration of its superiority in use over traditional measurement. One of the most famous architects of the Modern Movement, Le Corbusier, used feet and inches to calculate his twin modular system of design after struggling and failing to work it out in metres and centimetres. (Ref 2. below)

Everyone I talk to is in agreement with the Prince of Wales when he calls for our towns and cities to be built on a human scale. This will never happen until we revert to a human scale of measurement.

Ref 1. For a fuller explanation of this theme, see
Cosmic Dozens Twelve-Fold Designs of Society and Art by Michael S. Schneider
Ref 2. See also Le Corbusier's Modulor

Return to Index

What's the weather like?

We have now all been thoroughly brainwashed into accepting the weatherman on TV and radio telling us the temperatures in Centigrade (or Celsius or whatever it's called this week). But there is a curious thing happens during the summer months. When it gets hot outside, the newspapers and radio and TV start telling us the temperatures in Fahrenheit with phrases such as " the nineties". This is understandable because talking about temperatures " the high thirties" doesn't quite have the same impact. Nor does talking in Centigrade give any indication of the relative temperature, i.e. how it feels to us. Is it hot or cold today? Will I need a coat if I go out?

The metric method of measuring temperature uses a scale of 0 to 100 based on the freezing point and boiling point of water. Now this is all very well in the scientific laboratory but why is it considered to be a sensible method of measuring the ambient air temperature? When was the last time you saw boiling hot rain?

If it is necessary to use a scale of 0 to 100 to indicate what sort of weather we are having, then it would be a good idea to use one which relates to how we feel when we are out of doors. Surprise, surprise! The Fahrenheit scale of temperatures does exactly that! When it is 100 degrees, we feel like sitting in the shade and relaxing with a long cool drink and when it is 0 degrees, we stay in the house and pray for Spring. And when we are given any number in between those two extremes, we know exactly how hot or cold it is outside. It works! Why mess about changing to an abstract concept for the sake of tidy-minded bureaucrats and unworldly scientists?

Return to Index

French wines

It was the French who invented this decimal system of measurement and the French nation is proud of this 'great' achievement. The French are also proud of their native wines and rightly so. You would expect, therefore, the French wine industry to have embraced wholeheartedly this symbol of French intellectual supremacy. So when you order a case of French wine you get 10 litres of wine in 10 bottles, right? Wrong! You get 9 litres in 12 bottles! "Zut alors, Pierre. How did that renegade twelve get in there?" Back to le drawing board mes amis!

Return to Index

Back to Estatopia home page