A coherent, absolute system of units based on the customary units in English. Major scientific work was done in this system in the 19th century, but it was gradually eclipsed by various versions of the “metric system.”
In this system, the pound is a unit of mass, not weight (weight is a force). The unit of force is the poundal.
Between 1893 and 1959, in the United States the foot and pound were defined by reference to the prototypes of the meter and the kilogram. In the United Kingdom, the foot and pound were based on the British prototype yard and pound, and so differed slightly from the American units. The foot-pound-second system employing the values of the British prototypes is also known as the British absolute system of units.
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Last revised: 16 October 2003.