Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris, France
Science Before and After the French Revolution
Britain and Germany may contest the title of best science museum with the London Science Museum and Munich Deutsches Museum (see Chapters 77 and 19, respectively), but France’s Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of Arts and Trades) boasts of being the oldest (it was founded in 1794), and has a superb collection of devices dating from before 1750 to the present day.
The museum, situated in an 800-year-old priory, has a collection covering scientific instruments, materials, construction, communications, energy, mechanics, and transport.
The scientific instrument collection recounts the history of the creation of the metric system (with the meter, liter, and gram). The meter was to be one ten-millionth of the distance along the meridian from the North Pole to the Equator (running through Paris, of course), and when calculations were made in 1793 the meter was defined (with an error of 5 millimeters; see Chapter 8 for more on the meridian and meter). The gram was the weight of a cubic centimeter of water, and a liter was the volume of a cube with 10-centimeter sides. ...