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MCHAIN, Pierre-Franois-Andr (1744-1804) and Jean Baptise Joseph DELAMBRE (1749-1822). Base du systme mtrique dcimal, ou mesure de l'arc du mridien. Paris: Baudouin for Garnery, 1806-10.
3 volumes, 4o (252 x 197 mm). 28 folding engraved plates by E. Collin. (Lacking half-titles.) 19th-century light brown straight-grained calf gilt (spines rubbed). Provenance: W.A. (gift inscription on front flyleaf in vol. 1: "This book was a present to me from my friend Col. Hamilton. Hyderabad, December 15 1815 W.A.").
RARE FIRST EDITION OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE METRIC SYSTEM. In 1790, at the request of Talleyrand, the Acadmie des Sciences set up a commission to consider the problem of finding a fundamental unit of measurement to replace the various diverse regional systems that had been in use throughout Europe for centuries. The members of the commission included J.C. Borda, Lagrange, Laplace, G. Monge and Condorcet. "In 1791 they reported that the fundamental unit of length should be derived from a dimension of the earth: it should be the ten-millionth part of a quadrant of the earth's meridian extending between Dunkirk and Barcelona ... The Constituent Assembly set up a general commission of weights and measures to carry these proposals into effect and in 1795 a law was passed introducing the metric system into France with provisional standards" (PMM). The astronomers Delambre and Mchain were appointed to make accurate measurements of the meridian passing through Dunkirk and Barcelona, and their measurements were completed in 1799. The project had numerous delays, including France's political revolution, the tedious calculations in converting one system to another, and the death of Mchain in 1804. Delambre completed the final volume of their report in 1810. PMM 260; Norman 1481.
BIOT, Jean-Baptiste (1774-1862) and Franois ARAGO (1786-1853). Recueil d'observations godsiques. Paris: Courcier, 1821. 4o (253 x 196 mm). 2 folding engraved plates. Uniformly bound with above set in 19th-century straight-grained calf gilt. FIRST EDITION of the supplementary volume to the above, which includes Biot and Arago's completion of Mchain's measurement of the arc of the meridian in Spain and the Balearic Islands, left incomplete at his death. It also includes measurements taken in France, England and Scotland. Norman 1481. (4)
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