Science History: Celsius didn’t invent the scale that bears his name.

Here’s a video from Veritasium that was quite a surprise to me. It turns out that what we know as the Celsius temperature scale we use today wasn’t invented by the man whose name it bears. At least, not entirely:

Despite having lived through the big push to learn the Metric system in the 70’s, like most Americans, I never really got my head wrapped around it. Thanks to Reagan the United States Metric Board (USMB) was disbanded in 1982 bringing an end to any official attempt to make the Metric system the U.S. standard. Outside of the popularity of the 2-liter pop bottle and the 9-millimeter bullet, the vast majority of measurements in the United States is still done using the United States customary system (USCS or USC) which is a mish-mash of different systems none of which are as elegant as the Metric system. There’s been a couple of half-hearted attempts to get adoption going again over the years, but they’ve been mostly voluntary efforts that no one wants to volunteer for. Sure, you’ll find it in use in various science-y professions, but the average American is largely clueless on whether they would need to wear a coat when it’s 32°C outside*.

*Hint: No, most definitely not.

4 thoughts on “Science History: Celsius didn’t invent the scale that bears his name.

  1. I’m not an average American, having lived half my life in heathen Europe, but I don’t see what the fuss is about. It’s not that hard to internalize 32 degrees as being the freezing point of water, or a rather warm day. The math works out either way. Why not both and none?

  2. I think the celsius scale may predate the metric system, but it fits with the freezing point of water at zero degrees. having grown up with Fahrenheit I think Celsius degrees are too large and a 1/2 Celsius scale with 200℃ for boiling water.

  3. As Pratchett said, British people understand that logically 0 is freezing, 100 is boiling but still think 70 is a nice comfortable temperature…

    In the winter I use Celsius, because 0=Freeze is logical, but in the summer Fahrenheit because I grew up with 70 being a nice summers day, and there’s always the excitement that it might hit 3 figures – a 100 being an obvious milestone.

    I drink in pints down the pub, and half litres at home, and figure my mileage in MpG (because that’s what the car computer gives) and MpL (because that’s what we buy). I decorate in mm, but estimate in inches…

  4. Last Hussar- I always suspected you were bi. 🙂

    cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

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