Powers of Ten, Brought to You by the Modernists of the 1700s

Never say that the late 1700s were anything but modern. People then were fascinated with science, and the new. One result of this is our tendency to count things off in tens.

The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1788, made this nation the first in the world to conduct a census of population on a regular basis, the U.S. Census Bureau reminds us.

Every 10 years, in fact. Divisibility by tens had still more and earlier attraction for the Continental Congress.

On this date in 1785, for the first time in history, a nation adopted a decimal coinage system, founded on the dollar we know today.

At the time, money systems around the world were a chaos of fractions and units.

In 1799, the metre des Archives and the kilogramme des Archives were introduced by the French First Republic. These served as a basis for the metric system, with all of its 10s.

Currently, only two countries in our world — Mauretania and Madagascar — do not have decimal-based currency. There are 1.54 trillion of our decimal-based dollars in circulation. That’s a lot of tens, and hundreds.

 

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