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The USA Does Not Measure Up! The History and Current Status of the Metric System in America

Presented by: Don Hillger
Date: January 24, 2023 1:30 pm
Location: CIRA Commons


Even though the United States has resisted the worldwide change to the metric system, its adoption is inevitable for Americans!  History tells us that countries have only switched to metric, none the other way (except for temporary reversions).  The US remains in the midst of its metric transition as measurements change in various aspects of business and life.  This information is especially important for teachers/instructors, who should also know the history and current status of the metric system in the US.

The US “missed the boat” in the 1970s when the rest of the English-speaking world converted to metric.  That was a time when the metric system was being taught in schools, and metric was intended to replace our former units in most aspects of daily life.  However, the lack of a firm deadline and the voluntary nature of our metric transition has hindered progress towards metric.  Therefore, the US in effect remains the only major industrial nation not using metric as our primary measurement system.

The slow (voluntary) path that the US chose to follow is why we are still struggling with metric transition.  Most people are surprised when they learn of the large number of consumer products, services, and standards that already use metric units, most of which are hidden to the average/casual observer.