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International Bureau of Weights and Measures facts for kids

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International Bureau of Weights and Measures
Metric seal.svg
Metre Convention Signatories.svg
Metre Convention signatories
Abbreviation BIPM (from French name)
Formation 20 May 1875; 149 years ago (1875-05-20)
Type Intergovernmental
Region served
Official language
French and English
Martin Milton

The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (French: Bureau international des poids et mesures, BIPM) is an intergovernmental organisation, through which its 59 member-states act on measurement standards in areas including chemistry, ionising radiation, physical metrology, as well as the International System of Units (SI) and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). It is based in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, France. The organisation has been referred to as IBWM (from its name in English) in older literature.


The BIPM is overseen by the International Committee for Weights and Measures (French: Comité international des poids et mesures, CIPM), a committee of eighteen members that meet normally in two sessions per year, which is in turn overseen by the General Conference on Weights and Measures (French: Conférence générale des poids et mesures, CGPM) that meets in Paris usually once every four years, consisting of delegates of the governments of the Member States and observers from the Associates of the CGPM. These organs are also commonly referred to by their French initialisms.


The BIPM was created on 20 May 1875, following the signing of the Metre Convention, a treaty among 17 Member States (as of November 2018 there are now 59 members).

It is based at the Pavillon de Breteuil in Saint-Cloud, France, a 4.35 ha (10.7-acre) site (originally 2.52 ha or 6.2 acres) granted to the Bureau by the French Government in 1876. Since 1969 the site has been considered international territory, and the BIPM has all the rights and privileges accorded an intergovernmental organisation. This status was further clarified by the French decree No 70-820 of 9 September 1970.


The BIPM has the mandate to provide the basis for a single, coherent system of measurements throughout the world, traceable to the International System of Units (SI). This task takes many forms, from direct dissemination of units to coordination through international comparisons of national measurement standards (as in electricity and ionising radiation).

Following consultation, a draft version of the BIPM Work Programme is presented at each meeting of the General Conference for consideration with the BIPM budget. The final programme of work is determined by the CIPM in accordance with the budget agreed to by the CGPM.

Currently, the BIPM's main work includes:

  • Scientific and technical activities carried out in its four departments: chemistry, ionising radiation, physical metrology, and time
  • Liaison and coordination work, including providing the secretariat for the CIPM Consultative Committees and some of their Working Groups and for the CIPM MRA, and providing institutional liaison with the other bodies supporting the international quality infrastructure and other international bodies
  • Capacity building and knowledge transfer programs to increase the effectiveness within the worldwide metrology community of those Member State and Associates with emerging metrology systems
  • A resource centre providing a database and publications for international metrology

The BIPM is one of the twelve member organisations of the International Network on Quality Infrastructure (INetQI), which promotes and implements QI activities in metrology, accreditation, standardisation and conformity assessment.

The BIPM has an important role in maintaining accurate worldwide time of day. It combines, analyses, and averages the official atomic time standards of member nations around the world to create a single, official Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).


BIPM courtyard
Pavillon de Breteuil in Saint-Cloud, France

Since its establishment, the directors of the BIPM have been:

Name Country Mandate Notes
Gilbert Govi Italy 1875–1877
J. Pernet Switzerland 1877–1879 Acting director
Ole Jacob Broch Norway 1879–1889
J.-René Benoît France 1889–1915
Charles Édouard Guillaume Switzerland 1915–1936
Albert Pérard France 1936–1951
Charles Volet Switzerland 1951–1961
Jean Terrien France 1962–1977
Pierre Giacomo France 1978–1988
Terry J. Quinn United Kingdom 1988–2003 Honorary director
Andrew J. Wallard United Kingdom 2004–2010 Honorary director
Michael Kühne Germany 2011–2012
Martin J. T. Milton United Kingdom 2013–present

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Oficina Internacional de Pesas y Medidas para niños

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