In the Resolution 2 of the 3rd meeting of the CGPM, defining the kilogram, “the International Service of Weights and Measures” is mentioned (the French original text reads “le Service international des Poids et Mesures”). I wonder which organization this should be, and I am unable to find any other mention on Google except quotations of the resolution.

(Sorry if this question is considered off-topic here, I thought Physics would be the best match.)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just because the physics site is the best match doesn't mean it's necessarily on topic here... that being said, I don't think we ever officially decided whether unit questions would be on topic or not. So thanks for asking the question and prompting us to figure that out! I posted a question on the meta site about this. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 0:14

2 Answers 2


It was an early name of what became the trinity of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) and the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM).

The phrase "international service of weights and measures" or its French equivalent seems to have been used earlier at the CIPM meeting of 1887 related to adoption of the centigrade scale of the hydrogen thermometer.

  • $\begingroup$ I am still puzzled… BIPM/CGPM/CIPM were all created by the Metre Convention, and the sentence reads something like “The CIPM adopts as the standard thermometric scale for the International Service of Weights and Measures […]”, which means CIPM obviously existed at the time. You mean the “service” is meant as a more general name for the Metre Convention, or the later used “SI” (International System of Units)? That might make some sense, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – Mormegil
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ I read it as an early shorthand for what are the three bodies created by the Metre Convention, as a service to the world. Another example is Article 19 of the Metre Convention: "Le bureau du Comité international adressera, de son côté, à tous les Gouvernements des Hautes Parties contractantes, un Rapport annuel sur la situation administrative et financière du Service", i.e. an annual report on the administrative and financial situation of the Service, clearly referring to the activities and costs of the three bodies. $\endgroup$
    – Henry
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 11:22

CGPM, in French is "de Conference Generale des Poids et Measures", known as the "General Conference of Weights and Measures" in English. It was formed in 1875 when a group of industrialized nations signed the "Treaty of the Meter", after much debate and dicussion in order that standards of measurements, both physical and treaty based, would be on a common basis between the signatory countries.

The BIPM, Bureau International des Poids et Measures (International Bureau of Weights and Measures, located in Serves, France, is the scientific branch of a three part organisation that includes the CGPM and the CIPM. The CGPM holds regular meetings to regulate the measurement side of world commerce through updates to the Treaty as well as activities such as international intercomparisons of physical standards and more mundane things like bugeting.

The CIPM is the Comite International des Poids et Measures, or International Committee of Weights and Measures made up of 18 members out of body of the CIPM. The CIPM receives, organises and presents proposed items to the CGPM for a vote by all signatory members.

It may be of interest that of the seven basic units of measurements, from which all other units may be derived, the kilogram is the last to be based on an artifact rather than a repeatable natural phenomena. The artifact is called "Le Grande K" and is kept under tightly controlled conditions in a bomb proof safe in Serves. Experiments are underway to rectify this situation using Avagadro's Number or the watt balance (a variation of the balance used to determine the ampere). An uncertainty of less than 1 part in 10 billion must be realized to replace the comparison methods that have an uncertainy at least equal to that or less if done in vacuo.

The United States has been a member since the inception of the Treaty of the Meter and responsibility for measurements reside within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In particular, the maintenence and dissemination of the mass unit is a function of the Mass and Force Group.

Much more information can be gleaned from the BIPM.org and the NIST.gov websites.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your long response, however, it does not answer my question. I am aware of the basic structure of these institutions, what I am asking is specifically “the International Service of Weights and Measures”, which not mentioned anywhere I could find. $\endgroup$
    – Mormegil
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ The kilogram artifact is in Sèvres, not "Serves". $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 20:42

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