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date: 14 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This article traces the history of the relationship between physics and metrology, or physical metrology. It first examines how metrology became a part of the concerns of historians of science, and particularly physics, citing the work of Alexandre Koyré, Thomas Kuhn, and Witold Kula. It then describes various approaches to physics and metrology, focusing on the construction of a standard of length based on the seconds pendulum and the determination of the unit of electrical resistance. It also discusses broader historical issues in physics and metrology, including labour practices in physics, physics pedagogy, long-term processes of modernity (bureaucratization, industrialization, and the construction of empires), and the moral and ethical connotations of standards of measure. It shows that moral values became intertwined with metrology, especially in the British context.

Keywords: physics, metrology, physical metrology, Alexandre Koyré, Thomas Kuhn, Witold Kula, pendulum, electrical resistance, standards of measure, moral values

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