The Metro and the French Revolution


Prise de la Bastille.jpg
In 1989 France celebrated the second anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, which has become the conventional symbol that marks the beginning of the French Revolution with bells and whistles. It had already begun in reality since the May 5, 1789, when they were assembled in Versailles the States-General, which spread the opening day rotation of live King!. States ambassadors were sent: the State plain invited the remaining two (the clergy and nobility) to join him.
Some loose members of privileged States responded; with them, on 17 June, the State plain was proclaimed National Assembly, and decided that day that dissolve would cease in all France the perception of taxes that had not been voted for her. Members resumed the old principle: "there is no tax without representation". It was a bold move, which marked the rhythm of the times in the course.
June 23 Louis XV1 wanted to close the Assembly: the State plain resisted, the King ended up yielding and arranged the meeting of the three orders. But on July 11, a new tour deforce in the Court imposed on the party of the Queen and dismissed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Necker. A day later the news arrived in Paris. The people feared a coup d'etat and the city was filled with rumors.
The bread was scarce. In the gardens of the Palais Royal. Camille Desmoulins climbed onto a Chair and anticipation of the Marseillaise, cried out: to arms! July 13 the town looted the armouries, tried to force the arsenals, pulled out of the Palace for disabled persons twenty-eight thousand rifles and five guns and having been aware that deposits of gunpowder had been transferred to the Bastille, began to concentrate at its around. Beginning July 14.

As the revolution began to deploy its violent and fearsome dynamics, has resumed an old dream of the French Academy of Sciences: basing measurement systems on a permanent standard. In 1790, the constituent Assembly approved the proposal of Talleyrand is to study a system of new units of weights and measures as for all Nations. Very francesamente, it was decided to adopt a ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Ecuador, calculated on the Meridian that crosses Paris as a unit of length: the underground. Two engineers, Jean Delambre and Pierre Méchain, strove to rigorously measure the distance between Dunkirk and Barcelona, from which the Academy could calculate the rest. The ups and downs of the Revolution destroyed the old order: the constituent Assembly gave way to the legislative, and that to the Convention; France became a Republic. María-Antoinette and Louis XVI went to the gallows.
The task of Delambre and Méchain was long and painful: it took six years. Fell Danton; then Robespierre (27 July 1794). The new order needed a new way to measure the world. By law of April 7, 1795 (18 Germinal of the year III), the Republic adopted the metric system; the subway would be the new measuring stick: liberty, equality, fraternity. Directory, and more then the Consulate, paved the way for the Empire. A bar of Platinum and Iridium, that was deposited at the International Bureau of weights and measures in Sevres, near Paris was made. Over the bar, recorded two fine brands: the distance between these two marks defined the meter. This pattern subway survived to the Republic, the Empire and the restoration. Indeed, reigned unchallenged for almost two hundred years.
In 1983, at the International Conference of weights and measures in Paris, meter pattern was overthrown and redefined as!'the distance travelled by light in vacuum during 1/299.792.458 of a second". Thus, the unit of length is subordinated to the unity of time, under strict surveillance of one of the universal constants: speed of light in vacuum, which according to the theory of relativity by Einstein is the same measure from which is measured, from any system of possible reference in the universe.
It is far from being a curiosity. The desire for universality of those who wanted to base the measurement system on the dimensions of the Earth, the French Republic - one and Indivisible - meter calculated in function of the meridian of Paris, gave the cosmic longing for an era that considered to have deciphered a master key of nature, and that the standard of the 18th century seems little: metro should be defined on the basis of something truly universal as the speed of light in a vacuum. The own Napoleon had said: "the conquests will be forgotten, but the metric system will go down in the centuries to come."
On July 14, 1789, the King of France was devoted to hunting throughout the day; then, tired, he went to bed. 15 in the morning the Duke of Liancourt woke him and told the events in Paris. Is it a revolt? ", asked Luis XVI. "No, Majesty," replied the Duke, "is a revolution."
Article translated for educational purposes from: Planeta Sedna