Post 421  -by Gautam Shah 




During pre-medieval periods trade with distanced lands was managed by shippers and caravan masters. These agents conducted the business through the holistic (piece or item) value of the goods, rather then through its measures. This system of commerce changed, in medieval age when many European nations established their own trading posts in colonies across Asia, Africa and American continents. The colonists bought goods at the trading posts, transited and sold in their own country. This was mainly conducted in measure traditions of their mother lands.


Caravan outside Morocco

The European nations, each had distinctive measure systems. The measure systems of lengths, weights or volumes, each had incomparable units, and their subfractions were illogical. These problems were already realized, but now with increased colonial trade, as it caused vast problems. The current political leaderships (Royals) were not capable of solving it.

Sea Trade in Europe

With the onset of Industrial age, the trade, transit and conversion of raw materials, became closely interrelated. Natural raw materials passed through several processes, spread across many nations, to become vast variety of finished products. During the conversion the applicable measure systems also changed. For example, Cotton bought on volume basis, was converted into fabric -sold by lengths, and dresses -sold by numbers. Metal ore is mined in volumetric measure, transported by its weight measure, bought for its yield rate value, refined into ingots for weight measures, rolled into metal sections to be used for their strength aspect.

Colonial post at Salem India


● The transition to common measures systems developed at many fronts. Arabic numerals (actually of Indian origin) became common in Europe, and began to replace the Roman numbers, during the late Middle Ages (about 1500). This made decimal system possible (after Simon Stevin, a Flemish mathematician, in 1585, showed in his book ‘De Thiende’, how fractions could be expressed in decimals.) Vicar, Gabriel Mouton, St. Paul’s Church, Lyons, France, proposed a decimal system of measurement in 1670. Bishop of Autun, also known as Talleyrand was the political sponsor of weights and measures reforms in the French Revolutionary National Assembly. 1790, in the midst of the French Revolution, the National Assembly of France requested the French Academy of Sciences to “deduce an invariable standard for all the measures. Larger and smaller multiples of each unit were to be created by multiplying or dividing the basic units by 10 and its powers. France made its use compulsory in 1840.

10X divisioned clock of French Metric system

Raw materials and Finished products’ are misleading terms for goods. A finished product is a raw material for some other process. Raw materials procured in a linear, square, volumetric, weight or liquid measures get processed into a different ‘measure’ entity. For products transiting from one measure phase to another, a persistent dimensioning system is very advantageous. Consistency of dimensions allows use of standard tools, equipments, plants and technologies. The dimensional consistency, if properly recognized and supported, can rationalize the conversion processes, storage, handling, and waste management.

Ship Batavia –International trade

Steam Engine and Ship

In the Post Industrial Revolution period, trade and industry all over the world recognized the need for a Universal Dimensioning Discipline. At that time better coordination was also required for conversion and transmission from old measurement systems to any new system of measurements. First worldwide understanding emerged in the adoption of SI as the Universal Measure System.

Kuantan Port Yard Container modulated units

Organisation internationale de normalization or International Organization for Standardization would have different acronyms in different languages. Its founders decided to give it a short, all-purpose name. They chose ISO derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal. ISO is a voluntary, democratic and non governmental organization for International Cooperation for Standardization. SI = Systeme Internationale stand for Universal Measure System and it is now accepted by nearly all countries of the world.

Universally agreed parts

SI Recognized Measures: The SI system recognizes three sets of measures in each of the major categories. There is a 1000-factored gradation.

            The ISO Recognized Measures are:

            Length:           mm     mt        km

            Weight:          mg      kg        T

            Volume          ml        Lt         kl

All other measures such as centimetre cm or gram gm are not to be used.

Leon Battista Alberti De statua, definitor



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