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How the Metre Changed the World

The history of metre and length measurement, with Robert Crease, Marc Himbert, Jahnavi Phalkey and Quentin Cooper.

Nowdays, if you want to find out how long one metre is, you can use a tape measure or, if you are a scientist, you can calculate the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299 792 458 seconds. But how did we decide on what length a metre should be in the first place?

To follow the far-from-straight story of the metre Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Robert Crease, historian of science at Stonybrook University in the USA; Professor Marc Himbert, Scientific director of the Metrology Laboratory at CNAM in Paris; and Dr. Jahnavi Phalkey, historian of contemporary and twentieth century science and technology at King’s College in London.

Photo: Lilian Bourgeat's art creation 'Tape Measure', France 2013 (Getty Images)

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40 minutes