From Artefacts to Atoms: The BIPM and the Search for Ultimate Measurement Standards

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OUP USA, 2012 - Mathematics - 408 pages
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The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) is currently implementing the greatest change ever in the world's system of weights and measures — it is redefining the kilogram, the final artefact standard, and reorganizing the system of international units. This book tells the inside story of what led to these changes, from the events surrounding the founding of the BIPM in 1875 — a landmark in the history of international cooperation — to the present. It traces not only the evolution of the science, but also the story of the key individuals and events. The BIPM was the first international scientific laboratory. Founded in 1875 by the Metre Convention, its original tasks were to conserve the new international standards of the metre and the kilogram, to carry out calibrations for Member States and undertake research to advance measurement science. The book is based on the substantial archive of the BIPM which, from the very beginning, recounts the many discussions and arguments first as to whether and how such an institute should be created and in due course, how over the next one hundred and thirty years it should develop. Despite many national and personal rivalries, the institute actually created was admirably suited to its declared tasks. In the years and decades that followed, the scientific work of the small group of men who made up its first staff was of a very high order. One of the early Directors received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1920 for his discovery of invar. The international governing Board of the institute, the International Committee of Weights and Measures, has guided the institute from one charged with the conservation of the prototype artefacts to one now at the centre of world metrology and preparing for the redefinition of the last remaining artifact, the kilogram, in terms of a fixed value for one of the fundamental constants of physics, the Planck constant
 

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Contents

1 The origins of the Metre Convention 1851 to 1869
3
2 The creation of the International Metre Commission 1869
26
meetings of 1872 and 1873
45
4 The casting of 1874 and the first of the new metre bars
62
5 The Diplomatic Conference of the Metre 1875
74
6 The creation of the BIPM and the new metric prototypes take shape
88
7 The first decade of scientific work at the BIPM 1879 to 1889
111
8 New Member States and the First General Conference on Weights and Measures 1889
133
13 The SI absolute electrical units and the ionizing radiation section
240
Many decisions to be made
263
15 The mole the speed of light and more about the Metre Convention
290
16 New science at the BIPM and mutual recognition of national measurement standards
311
17 The redefinition of the kilogram and the move towards the new SI
341
The new SI and the future role of the BIPM
368
Bibliography
373
The Metre Convention
387

9 Scientific work at the BIPM and the General Conferences of 1895 and 1901
148
10 The creation of the Grands Laboratoires
173
11 The story of invar and the Convention of 1921
180
12 The Seventh and Eighth General Conferences 1927 and 1933 practical metrology and the Bureau during the Second World War
208
Presidents and Secretaries of the CIPM and Directors of the BIPM
397
Index
399
Copyright

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About the author (2012)


Terry Quinn is an experimental physicist who has worked in a number of fields of measurements science: temperature, optical radiometry, mass and fundamental constants. From 1988 to 2003 he was Director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, Sevres, France and was much involved in the organization of international metrology. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

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