Hi I’m Craig, I’m of average height. I guess
you could say I’m fair… in height, and this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today, I’m going
to answer Martin Prince’s big question, “Why do Americans use Fahrenheit?” I know some of you hate it when I don’t
use Celsius, so today I’m going to spend an entire video talking about Fahrenheit.
Let’s get started! First: I’m going to give a little history
of Fahrenheit and Celsius. So, the Fahrenheit scale was developed by a German man named
Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724. It’s believed that he originally had 0° being
the temperature of ice cold salt water, 32° as ice water, and 96° as body temperature.
Over time, the scale shifted a little, but it was used in English-speaking countries
for centuries. The Celsius scale was developed in 1744. It’s
named for a Swedish astronomer, Anders Celsius, who created a scale in which 0° was the boiling
point of water and 100° was the freezing point. What that’s the reverse! Well The modern
Celsius scale was the opposite of that. In most English-speaking countries, Fahrenheit
was used up until about the 1960s. Then, all those places (besides the U.S.) began to switch
over to Celsius and the metric system. Those crazy free-wheelin metric 60’s. Most had been
trying to switch to metric system since the 1800s because it obviously made more sense.
But there was some hesitation, especially when reporting weather. A 2006 article by
the London newspaper The Times claimed, “-6 °C sounds colder than 21 °F and 94 °F sounds
more impressive than 34 °C.” You want to be impressed by your temperatures, you know? So why doesn’t the U.S. switch over? Well,
we’ve tried. Like, in 1875, the U.S. joined the Metre Convention, which was a treaty signed
by 17 nations. Those nations developed a standardized metric system, which started with measurements
of mass and length, but eventually included temperature. Over the course of the next few decades, it
seemed like the U.S. would definitely switch over to metric, and we did and now it’s metric
everywhere happy ending, not true. The UK and Canada did switch in the sixties so why
didn’t we? In 1975, Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act. This act claimed that Metric
was, quote, “the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce.”
It also stated that the government would, quote, “coordinate and plan the increasing
use of the metric system in the United States.” The government agency USMB, or United States
Metric Board, was created soon after the Act was passed. But, the public still wasn’t
convinced. And the Board didn’t have enough power to force the country to switch over.
Eventually, Ronald Reagan’s administration shut down the USMB in 1982. There’s still some traction and many people
in the U.S. who’d like to switch to metric. But, it’s has been a slow process and many
remain resistant. And weirdly, you still see Fahrenheit crop up in scientific journals
and engineering. This is for one main reason: the degrees are smaller, so you can get twice
the level of precision before needing decimals. Then there’s a secondary reason, ‘murica rah. Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube,
which is made with the help of all these nice Celsiuses. If you have a Big Question of your
own that you’d like answered, leave it below in comments. See you next week! That one might
be a Fahrenheit, actually.