Evolution of Measurement System and SI Units in India

Shanay Rab Shanay Rab, Sanjay Yadav, Naveen Garg, Shivani Rajput, D. K. Aswal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper presents a terse review on the evolution of measurement system and International System of Units (SI) in India, the methodology followed to realize the measurement units and the present state of the art in realizing of 7 base units. The measurement systems evolved, developed and used during several ancient historical periods, Indus valley to Vedic period to existing SI system of modern era, are discussed. The major activities carried out during ancient times were primarily based on the units of mass, length and time. The current system has been established and adopted to realize SI units through the fundamental constants, invariant of time and space, which has replaced the dependence on artifacts. The new era of SI system based on quantum metrology has established linkages of all the 7 base units to fundamental constants. The aim of the study is to present the major events, activities and developments carried out in India pertaining to the evolution of SI units. The SI system at the top of traceability chain and heart of metrology and measurement system, it is of utmost important to understand, how the SI system is evolved historically: It becomes further inevitable when India is aiming for AtmaNirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India) for augmenting the industrial growth of Indian economy, wherein strengthening the national quality infrastructure for enhancing trade and commerce shall be indispensable and unbroken chain of measurement traceability through new SI system would play a major role. The present review would provide a concise report on these developments, starting from Indus valley period to existing era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-490
Number of pages16
JournalMapan - Journal of Metrology Society of India
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Authors are thankful to all the NPL colleagues and students of CSIR-NPL past and present, whose works and activities are briefly mentioned in this paper.

Funding Information:
Before independence (15 August 1947), the scientific infrastructure in the country was not adequate. However, after independence, famous scientist of the country, Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar suggested the Government for need of establishing a separate Industrial Research Fund for fostering industrial development in the country. Later, the Government accepted his proposal for creating an autonomous body called the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to administer this Research Fund as well as to foster and promote science and technology in the country. The CSIR was formed by a resolution of the then Central Legislative Assembly and registered as an autonomous body under the Registration of Societies Act of 1860. Dr. Bhatnagar initiated plans for setting up national laboratories for scientific and industrial research in the country. He proposed a central laboratory in 1941, which later took the shape of into two laboratories, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL). The NPL was primarily conceptualized as a standards laboratory, a National Metrology Institute (NMI), designed to offer national standards for physical measurements as well as conduct basic and applied research in measurement standards [].


  • Metrology
  • Quality Infrastructure
  • SI units
  • Traceability


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