How Did The Meter Get Its Length?

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One of 30 copies of the first protoype meter made  by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. 1875-1889  i

One of 30 copies of the first protoype meter made by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. 1875-1889 NIST Museum Collection hide caption

itoggle caption NIST Museum Collection
One of 30 copies of the first protoype meter made  by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. 1875-1889

One of 30 copies of the first protoype meter made by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. 1875-1889

NIST Museum Collection

The U.S. doesn't routinely use the metric system. The U.S. government definition of a foot is 0.3048 meters. But if the length of a foot is based on the meter, what's the length of the meter based on?

Correction June 23, 2014

Previous versions of this story said a platinum bar cast in the 19th century was what the world used as the official length of a meter. It was the first official standard for the length of the meter. There's another in effect today.

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