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# Centimetre–gram–second system of units

"CGS" redirects here. For other uses, see CGS (disambiguation).
For a topical guide to this subject, see Outline of the metric system.
The centimetre–gram–second system of units (abbreviated CGS or cgs) is a variant of the metric
system based on the centimetre as the unit of length, the gram as the unit of mass, and
the second as the unit of time. All CGS mechanical units are unambiguously derived from these
three base units, but there are several different ways of extending the CGS system to
cover electromagnetism.
The CGS system has been largely supplanted by the MKS system based on the metre, kilogram,
and second, which was in turn extended and replaced by the International System of Units (SI). In
many fields of science and engineering, SI is the only system of units in use but there remain certain
subfields where CGS is prevalent.
In measurements of purely mechanical systems (involving units of length,
mass, force, energy, pressure, and so on), the differences between CGS and SI are straightforward
and rather trivial; the unit-conversion factors are all powers of 10 as 100 cm = 1 m and 1000 g = 1
kg. For example, the CGS unit of force is the dyne which is defined as 1 g·cm/s2, so the SI unit of
force, the newton (1 kg·m/s2), is equal to 100,000 dynes.
On the other hand, in measurements of electromagnetic phenomena (involving units of charge,
electric and magnetic fields, voltage, and so on), converting between CGS and SI is more subtle. In
fact, formulas for physical laws of electromagnetism (such as Maxwell's equations) need to be
adjusted depending on which system of units one uses. This is because there is no one-to-one
correspondence between electromagnetic units in SI and those in CGS, as is the case for
mechanical units. Furthermore, within CGS, there are several plausible choices of electromagnetic
units, leading to different unit "sub-systems", including Gaussian units, "ESU", "EMU",
and Heaviside–Lorentz. Among these choices, Gaussian units are the most common today, and in
fact the phrase "CGS units" is often used to refer specifically to CGS-Gaussian units.

Contents
[hide]

 1History
 2Definition of CGS units in mechanics
o 2.1Definitions and conversion factors of CGS units in mechanics
 3Derivation of CGS units in electromagnetism
o 3.1CGS approach to electromagnetic units
o 3.2Alternate derivations of CGS units in electromagnetism
o 3.3Various extensions of the CGS system to electromagnetism
o 3.4Electrostatic units (ESU)
 3.4.1ESU notation
o 3.5Electromagnetic units (EMU)
 3.5.1EMU notation
o 3.6Relations between ESU and EMU units
o 3.7Practical cgs units
o 3.8Other variants
 4Electromagnetic units in various CGS systems
 5Physical constants in CGS units
 8References and notes
 9General literature

History
The CGS system goes back to a proposal in 1832 by the German mathematician Carl Friedrich
Gauss to base a system of absolute units on the three fundamental units of length, mass and time.
Gauss chose the units of millimetre, milligram and second.[1] In 1874, it was extended by the British
physicists James Clerk Maxwell and William Thomson with a set of electromagnetic units and the
selection of centimetre, gram and second and the naming of C.G.S.[2]
The sizes of many CGS units turned out to be inconvenient for practical purposes. For example,
many everyday objects are hundreds or thousands of centimetres long, such as humans, rooms and
buildings. Thus the CGS system never gained wide general use outside the field of science. Starting
in the 1880s, and more significantly by the mid-20th century, CGS was gradually superseded
internationally for scientific purposes by the MKS (metre–kilogram–second) system, which in turn
developed into the modern SI standard.
Since the international adoption of the MKS standard in the 1940s and the SI standard in the 1960s,
the technical use of CGS units has gradually declined worldwide, in the United States more slowly
than elsewhere. CGS units are today no longer accepted by the house styles of most scientific
journals, textbook publishers, or standards bodies, although they are commonly used in
astronomical journals such as The Astrophysical Journal. CGS units are still occasionally
encountered in technical literature, especially in the United States in the fields of material
science, electrodynamics and astronomy. The continued usage of CGS units is most prevalent in
magnetism and related fields, as the primary MKS unit, the tesla, is inconveniently large, leading to
the continued common use of the gauss, the CGS equivalent.
The units gram and centimetre remain useful as prefixed units within the SI system, especially for
instructional physics and chemistry experiments, where they match the small scale of table-top
setups. However, where derived units are needed, the SI ones are generally used and taught
instead of the CGS ones today. For example, a physics lab course might ask students to record
lengths in centimetres, and masses in grams, but force (a derived unit) in newtons, a usage
consistent with the SI system.

## Definition of CGS units in mechanics

In mechanics, the CGS and SI systems of units are built in an identical way. The two systems differ
only in the scale of two out of the three base units (centimetre versus metre and gram versus
kilogram, respectively), while the third unit (second as the unit of time) is the same in both systems.
There is a one-to-one correspondence between the base units of mechanics in CGS and SI, and the
laws of mechanics are not affected by the choice of units. The definitions of all derived units in terms
of the three base units are therefore the same in both systems, and there is an unambiguous one-to-
one correspondence of derived units:

(definition of velocity)

## (energy defined in terms of work)

(pressure defined as force per unit area)

## (dynamic viscosity defined as shear stress per unit velocity gradient).

Thus, for example, the CGS unit of pressure, barye, is related to the CGS base
units of length, mass, and time in the same way as the SI unit of
pressure, pascal, is related to the SI base units of length, mass, and time:
1 unit of pressure = 1 unit of force/(1 unit of length)2 = 1 unit of mass/(1 unit of length·(1 unit
of time)2)
1 Ba = 1 g/(cm·s2)
1 Pa = 1 kg/(m·s2).
Expressing a CGS derived unit in terms of the SI base units, or vice
versa, requires combining the scale factors that relate the two
systems:
1 Ba = 1 g/(cm·s2) = 10−3 kg/(10−2 m·s2) = 10−1 kg/(m·s2) = 10−1 Pa.
Definitions and conversion factors of CGS units
in mechanics

CGS Equiva
Sym CGS unit Definit lent
Quantity
bol unit abbrevi ion in SI
ation units

1/100
length, centim =
L, x cm of metr
position etre 10−2 m
e

1/1000
=
mass m gram g of kilog
10−3 kg
ram

secon 1
time t s =1s
d second

centim
etre =
velocity v per cm/s cm/s 10−2 m/
secon s
d
=
acceleration a gal Gal cm/s2 10−2 m/
s2

=
force F dyne dyn g·cm/s2
10−5 N

## energy E erg erg g·cm2/s = 10−7 J

2

erg pe
r g·cm2/s =
power P erg/s
secon 3
10−7 W
d

g/(cm· =
pressure p barye Ba
s2) 10−1 Pa

=
dynamic vis g/(cm·
μ poise P 10−1 Pa
cosity s)
·s

=
kinematic vi
ν stokes St cm2/s 10−4 m2/
scosity
s

kayser = 100
wavenumber k cm−1[3] cm−1
(K) m−1

## Derivation of CGS units in

electromagnetism
CGS approach to electromagnetic units
The conversion factors relating electromagnetic units in the
CGS and SI systems are made more complex by the
differences in the formulae expressing physical laws of
electromagnetism as assumed by each system of units,
specifically in the nature of the constants that appear in these
formulae. This illustrates the fundamental difference in the
ways the two systems are built:
 In SI, the unit of electric current, the ampere (A), was
historically defined such that the magnetic force exerted by
two infinitely long, thin, parallel wires 1 metre apart and
carrying a current of 1 ampere is exactly 2×10−7 N/m. This
definition results in all SI electromagnetic units consistent
(subject to factors of some integer powers of 10) with the
EMU CGS system described in further sections. The
ampere is a base unit of the SI system, with the same
status as the metre, kilogram, and second. Thus the
relationship in the definition of the ampere with the metre
and newton is disregarded, and the ampere is not treated
as dimensionally equivalent to any combination of other
base units. As a result, electromagnetic laws in SI require
an additional constant of proportionality (see Vacuum
permittivity) to relate electromagnetic units to kinematic
units. (This constant of proportionality is derivable directly
from the above definition of the ampere.) All other electric
and magnetic units are derived from these four base units
using the most basic common definitions: for
example, electric charge q is defined as current I multiplied
by time t,

,
therefore the unit of electric charge, the coulomb (C), is defined as 1 C = 1 A⋅s.

##  The CGS system avoids introducing new base

quantities and units, and instead derives all electric
and magnetic units directly from the centimetre,
gram, and second by specifying the form of the
expression of physical laws that relate
electromagnetic phenomena to mechanics.
Alternate derivations of CGS units in
electromagnetism
Electromagnetic relationships to length, time and mass
may be derived by several equally appealing methods.
Two of them rely on the forces observed on charges.
Two fundamental laws relate (seemingly independently
of each other) the electric charge or its rate of
change (electric current) to a mechanical quantity such
as force. They can be written[4] in system-independent
form as follows:

##  The first is Coulomb's law, , which describes

the electrostatic force F between electric

## Here is a constant which depends on how

exactly the unit of charge is derived from the base
units.
 The second is Ampère's force law, , which
describes the magnetic force F per unit
length L between currents I and I′ flowing in two
straight parallel wires of infinite length, separated
by a distance d that is much greater than the wire

## constant also depends on how the unit of

charge is derived from the base units.
Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism relates these
two laws to each other. It states that the ratio of

## obey , where c is the speed of light in vacuum.

Therefore, if one derives the unit of charge from the

## law will contain a prefactor . Alternatively, deriving

the unit of current, and therefore the unit of charge,

## from the Ampère's force law by setting or ,

will lead to a constant prefactor in the Coulomb's law.
Indeed, both of these mutually exclusive approaches
have been practiced by the users of CGS system,
leading to the two independent and mutually exclusive
branches of CGS, described in the subsections below.
However, the freedom of choice in deriving
electromagnetic units from the units of length, mass,
and time is not limited to the definition of charge. While
the electric field can be related to the work performed
by it on a moving electric charge, the magnetic force is
always perpendicular to the velocity of the moving
charge, and thus the work performed by the magnetic
field on any charge is always zero. This leads to a
choice between two laws of magnetism, each relating
magnetic field to mechanical quantities and electric
charge:

##  The first law describes the Lorentz force produced

by a magnetic field B on a charge q moving with
velocity v:

##  The second describes the creation of a static

magnetic field B by an electric current I of finite
length dl at a point displaced by a vector r,
known as Biot–Savart law:

where r and are the length and the unit vector in the direction of
vector r respectively.
These two laws can be used to
derive Ampère's force law above, resulting in

## the relationship: . Therefore, if the unit of

charge is based on the Ampère's force

## unit of magnetic field by setting .

However, if it is not the case, a choice has to
be made as to which of the two laws above is
a more convenient basis for deriving the unit of
magnetic field.
Furthermore, if we wish to describe the electric
displacement field D and the magnetic
field H in a medium other than vacuum, we
need to also define the constants ε0 and μ0,
which are the vacuum
permittivity and permeability, respectively.

## Then we have[4] (generally) and ,

where P and M are polarization
density and magnetization vectors. The factors
λ and λ′ are rationalization constants, which

## are usually chosen to be ,a

dimensionless quantity. If λ = λ′ = 1, the
system is said to be "rationalized":[5] the laws
for systems of spherical geometry contain
factors of 4π (for example, point charges),
those of cylindrical geometry – factors of 2π
(for example, wires), and those of planar
geometry contain no factors of π (for example,
parallel-plate capacitors). However, the
original CGS system used λ = λ′ = 4π, or,

## equivalently, . Therefore, Gaussian, ESU,

and EMU subsystems of CGS (described
below) are not rationalized.
Various extensions of the CGS
system to electromagnetism
The table below shows the values of the above
constants used in some common CGS
subsystems:
system

Electrosta
tic[4] CGS
c− c− c− 4 4
(ESU, 1 1 1
2 2 2
π π
esu, or
stat-)

Electrom
agnetic[4]
CGS c− 4 4
c2 1 1 1 1
(EMU, 2
π π
emu, or
ab-)

Gaussian[ c− c− c− 4 4
1 1 1
4]
CGS 1 2 1
π π

Lorentz–
Heaviside 1 1 c− 1 1
1
[4]
CGS

SI 1 1 1

## scaling factor defined as: .

Also, note the following correspondence of the
above constants to those in Jackson[4] and
Leung:[6]

## In system-independent form, Maxwell's

equations can be written as:[4][6]
Note that of all these variants, only in
Gaussian and Heaviside–Lorentz

## As a result, vectors and of

an electromagnetic wave propagating in
vacuum have the same units and are
equal in magnitude in these two variants of
CGS.
Electrostatic units (ESU)
Main article: Electrostatic units
In one variant of the CGS
system, Electrostatic units (ESU),
charge is defined via the force it exerts on
other charges, and current is then defined
as charge per time. It is done by setting

## the Coulomb force constant , so

that Coulomb's law does not contain an
explicit prefactor.
The ESU unit of charge, franklin (Fr), also
known as statcoulomb or esu charge, is
therefore defined as follows:[7]
two equal point charges spaced
1 centimetre apart are said to be of 1
franklin each if the electrostatic force
between them is 1 dyne.
Therefore, in electrostatic CGS units, a
franklin is equal to a centimetre times
square root of dyne:

.
The unit of current is defined as:

.
Dimensionally in the ESU CGS
system, charge q is therefore
equivalent to m1/2L3/2t−1. Hence,
neither charge nor current is an
independent physical quantity in
ESU CGS. This reduction of units
is the consequence of
the Buckingham π theorem.
ESU notation
All electromagnetic units in ESU
CGS system that do not have
proper names are denoted by a
corresponding SI name with an
attached prefix "stat" or with a
separate abbreviation "esu".[7]
Electromagnetic units
(EMU)
In another variant of the CGS
system, electromagnetic
units (EMU), current is defined
via the force existing between two
thin, parallel, infinitely long wires
carrying it, and charge is then
defined as current multiplied by
time. (This approach was
eventually used to define the SI
unit of ampere as well). In the
EMU CGS subsystem, this is
done by setting the Ampere force

## constant , so that Ampère's

force law simply contains 2 as an
explicit prefactor (this prefactor 2
is itself a result of integrating a
more general formulation of
Ampère's law over the length of
the infinite wire).
The EMU unit of current, biot (Bi),
also known as abampere or emu
current, is therefore defined as
follows:[7]
The biot is that constant current
which, if maintained in two straight
parallel conductors of infinite
length, of negligible circular cross-
section, and placed
one centimetreapart in vacuum,
would produce between these
conductors a force equal to
two dynes per centimetre of
length.
Therefore, in electromagnetic
CGS units, a biot is equal to a
square root of dyne:

.
The unit of charge in CGS
EMU is:

.
Dimensionally in the EMU
CGS system, charge q is
therefore equivalent to
m1/2L1/2. Hence, neither
charge nor current is an
independent physical
quantity in EMU CGS.
EMU notation
All electromagnetic units
in EMU CGS system that
do not have proper
names are denoted by a
corresponding SI name
with an attached prefix
"ab" or with a separate
abbreviation "emu".[7]
Relations between
ESU and EMU
units
The ESU and EMU
subsystems of CGS are
connected by the
fundamental

relationship (see
above), where c =
29,979,245,800 ≈ 3·1010 is
the speed of light in
vacuum in centimetres
per second. Therefore,
the ratio of the
corresponding "primary"
electrical and magnetic
units (e.g. current,
charge, voltage, etc. –
quantities proportional to
those that enter directly
into Coulomb's
law or Ampère's force
law) is equal either
to c−1 or c:[7]

and
.
Units derived
from these may
have ratios equal
to higher powers
of c, for example:

.
Practical
cgs
units
The practical
cgs system is
a hybrid
system that
uses
the volt and
the ampere a
s the unit of
voltage and
current
respectively.
Doing this
avoids the
inconvenientl
y large and
small
quantities
that arise for
electromagne
tic units in the
esu and emu
systems. This
system was
at one time
widely used
by electrical
engineers
because the
volt and amp
international
standard
units by the
International
Electrical
Congress of
1881.[8] As
well as the
volt and amp,
acitance), oh
m (resistance
), coulomb (el
ectric
charge),
and henry are
consequently
also used in
the practical
system and
are the same
as the SI
units.
However, inte
nsive
properties (th
at is, anything
that is per
unit length,
area, or
volume) will
not be the
same as SI
since the cgs
unit of
distance is
the
centimetre.
For
instance elect
ric field
strength is in
units of volts
per
centimetre, m
agnetic field
strength is in
amps per
centimetre,
and resistivity
is in ohm-
cm.[9]
Some physici
sts and electri
cal
engineers in
North
America still
use these
hybrid
units.[10]
Other
variants[ed
it]
There were at
various points
half a dozen
systems of
electromagne
tic units in
use, most
based on the
CGS
system.[11] Th
ese also
include
the Gaussian
units and
the Heaviside
–Lorentz
units.

Electro
magneti
c units
in
various
CGS
systems[
edit]

Conversio
n of SI
units in
electroma
gnetism to
ESU, EMU,
and
Gaussian
subsystem
s of CGS[7]
c=
29,979,245
,800
G
a
Q u
E E
u SS s
S M
a yI s
U U
n mu i
u u
t bn a
n n
i oi n
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t l t u
t t
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t

(
1
(
0
− 1
e 1 0
l −

e 1
c
c
)
t c
r )
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i (
r
c 1 o
c q r
( 0
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f c
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e a C
r
m t /
/
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f m
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e
l
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(
c 1
1 (
t 0
0 1
r 1
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i c 1
9
c p C)
a
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C)
p t

o a
c D
l t
m
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m ⋅
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m c
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t

m
a
g (
n 1
e 0 (
t 3
1 (
i 0 1
c 1c 3 0
d ) ) 3
i A )
μ
p ⋅ s a
o mt b e
l 2
a Ar
e t ⋅ g
m A c /
o ⋅ mG
m c 2
e m
2
n
t

m
a (
g 1
n 0
4
e ( (
t 1 1
1 c
i − 0 0
B
c 1
4 4
T
B ) ) )
f s
i t GG
e a
l t
d T

m
1
a ( ( (
g 4 4 4
HA
n π π π
/
e × × ×
m
t 1 1 1
i 0 0 0
− − −
c 3 3 3
H
f ) )
i c
e ) OO
l e e
d s
t
a
t
A
/
c
m

(
m 1
a 0
g 8

n ( (
e 1c 1 1
t Φ − 0 0
8 8
1
i m W ) )
c b)
f s
l t MM
u a x x
x t
W
b

( (
r 1 1
e 0 ( 0
9 9
s 1
i
1c 09 c
s
R − ) −
t 2 2
Ω
a ) )
n a
c s b s
e / Ω/
c c
m m

r ρ1
e ( ( (
s Ω1 1 1
i ⋅ 0 0 0
s m 11 11 11
t
i )
v c c
− −
i 2
a 2

t b
) Ω)
y

s c s
m

c ( (
a 1 ( 1
p 0 1 0
a −
0 −
c 19 − 9
9
i C
t Fc ) c
2 2
a
n ) a )
c b
e c Fc
m m

( (
1 1
i 0 0
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n (
d c 1 c
u
12 0
− −
9 2
c
L
t ) ) )
H
a
n c a c
c mb m

e H−
1 1

⋅ ⋅
s s
2 2

In this
table, c =
29,979,245,8
00 is the
numeric
value of
the speed of
light in
vacuum when
expressed in
units of
centimetres
per second.
The symbol ""
is used
as a reminder
that the SI
and CGS
units
are correspon
ding but
not equal bec
ause they
have
incompatible
dimensions.
For example,
according to
the next-to-
last row of
the table, if a
capacitor has
a capacitance
of 1 F in SI,
then it has a
capacitance
of (10−9 c2) cm
in ESU; but it
is usually
incorrect to
replace "1 F"
with "(10−9 c2)
cm" within an
equation or
formula. (This
warning is a
special
aspect of
electromagne
tism units in
CGS. By
contrast, for
example, it
is always corr
ect to replace
"1 m" with
"100 cm"
within an
equation or
formula.)
One can think
of the SI
value of
the Coulomb
constant kC a
s:

This
explains
why SI to
ESU
conversio
ns
involving
factors
to
significan
t
simplifica
tions of
the ESU
units,
such as
1 statF =
1 cm and
1 statΩ =
1 s/cm:
this is the
conseque
nce of
the fact
that in
ESU
system kC
= 1. For
example,
a
centimetr
e of
capacitan
ce is the
capacitan
ce of a
sphere of
1 cm in
vacuum.
The
capacitan
ce C bet
ween two
concentri
c spheres
of
d r in
ESU
CGS
system
is:

.
By
takin
g the
limit
as R
goes
to
infinit
y we
see
C eq
uals r
.

Ph
ysi
cal
con
sta
nts
in
CG
S
uni
ts[e
dit]

Co
mm
onl
y
use
d
phy
sic
al
con
sta
nts
in
CG
S
uni
ts[12]

C
oS
V
ny
a
sm
l
t b
u
ao
e
nl
t

1
.
6
A 6
t 0
o
m 5
i 3
c 8
m
u 7
a
s 8
s 2
u ×
n 1
i 0

t 2
4

B 9
oμ .
B
h 2
r 7
m 4
a
g 0
n 0
e 9
t
o 1
n 5
×
1
0

2
1

e
r
g
/
G

(
E
M
U
,
G
a
u
s
s
i
a
n
)

2
.
7
8
0

2
7
8

0
0
×
1
0

1
0

s
t
a
t
A
·
c
m
2

(
E
S
U
)

5
.
2
9
1

B 7
o 7
h 2
r
r a 0
a0 8
d 5
i 9
u ×
s 1
0

9

c
m

B 1
o .
l 3
t 8
k
z 0
m
a 6
n 5
n 0
c 4
o ×
n 1
s 0

t 1
a 6
n
t e
r
g
/
K

9
.
1
0
E 9
l
e 3
c 8
t 2
r m
oe 1
n 5
m ×
a 1
s 0
s −
2
8

4
E .
l 8
e 0
m 3
e
n 2
t e 0
a 4
r
y 2
c 7
h ×
a 1
r 0

1
g 0
e
F
r

(
E
S
U
,
G
a
u
s
s
i
a
n
)

1
.
6
0
2

1
7
6

4
8
7
×
1
0

2
0

a
b
C

(
E
M
U
)
F
i
n 7
e .
- 2
s 9
t 7
r α
u 3
c≈ 5
t 1 2
u/
r 1 5
e3 7
c7 0
o ×
n 1
s 0
t −
3
a
n
t

6
G .
r 6
a 7
v 4
i
t 2
a 8
t ×
i 1
o 0

n G8
a
l
c
c
m
o 3
n /
s (
t g
a ·
n s
t 2
)

Ph 6
l .
a 6
n 2
c 6
k
c 0
o 6
n 8
s
t 8
a 5
n ×
t 1
0

2
7

e
r
g
·
s

1
.
0
5
4

5
7
1
6
ħ×
1
0

2
7

e
r
g
·
s

S ≡
p
c
e 2
e .
d 9
o 9
f 7
l
i 9
g 2
h 4
t
i 5
n 8
v ×
a 1
c 0
1
u 0
u
m
c
m
/
s

van
tag
es
an
d
dis
ant
age
s[edi
t]
While
the
abse
nce
of
expli
cit
prefa
ctors
in
some
CGS
subs
yste
ms
simpl
ifies
some
theor
etical
calcu
lation
s, it
has
the
vanta
ge
that
some
times
the
units
in
CGS
are
hard
to
defin
e
throu
gh
exper
iment
.
Also,
lack
of
uniqu
e unit
name
s
to a
great
confu
sion:
thus
"15
emu"
may
mean
either
15 ab
volts,
or 15
emu
units
of ele
ctric
dipol
e
mom
ent,
or 15
emu
units
of ma
gneti
c
susc
eptibi
lity,
some
times
(but
not
alwa
ys)
per g
ram,
or
per
mole.
On
the
other
hand,
SI
starts
with
a unit
of
curre
nt,
the a
mper
e,
that
is
easie
r to
deter
mine
throu
gh
exper
iment
, but
whic
h
requi
res
extra
multi
plicat
ive
factor
s in
the
electr
omag
netic
equat
ions.
With
its
syste
m of
uniqu
ely
name
d
units,
the
SI
also
remo
ves
any
confu
sion
in
usag
e: 1.0
ampe
re is
a
fixed
value
of a
speci
fied
quant
ity,
and
so
are
1.0 h
enry,
1.0 o
hm,
and
1.0
volt.
A key
virtue
of
the G
aussi
an
CGS
syste
m is
that
electr
ic
and
magn
etic
fields
have
the
same
units,
4πϵ0 i
s
repla
ced
by 1,
and
the
only
dime
nsion
al
const
ant
appe
aring
in
the M
axwe
ll
equat
ions i
s c,
the
spee
d of
light.
The
Heav
iside

Lore
ntz
syste
m ha
s
these
desir
able
prop
erties
as
well
(with
ϵ0 eq
ualin
g 1),
but it
is a
"ratio
naliz
ed"
syste
m (as
is SI)
in
whic
h the
charg
es
and
fields
are
defin
ed in
such
a
way
that
there
are
many
fewer
factor
s of
4π a
ppea
ring
in the
form
ulas,
and it
is in
Heav
iside

Lore
ntz
units
that
the
Max
well
equat
ions
take
their
simpl
est
form.
In SI,
and
other
ration
alize
d
syste
ms
(for
exam
ple,
Heav
iside

Lore
ntz),
the
unit
of
curre
nt
was
chos
en
such
that
electr
omag
netic
equat
ions
conc
ernin
g
charg
ed
spher
es
conta
in
4π,
those
conc
ernin
g
coils
of
curre
nt
and
straig
ht
wires
conta
in 2π
and
those
deali
ng
with
charg
ed
surfa
ces
lack
π
entire
ly,
whic
h
was
the
most
conv
enien
t
choic
e for
appli
catio
ns
in ele
ctrica
l
engin
eerin
g.
How
ever,
mode
rn ha
nd
calcu
lators
and
perso
nal
comp
uters
have
elimi
nated
this
antag
e". In
some
fields
wher
e
form
ulas
conc
ernin
g
spher
es
are
com
mon
(for
exam
ple,
in
astro
physi
cs), it
has
been
argu
ed[by
whom?]
t
hat
the
nonr
ation
alize
d
CGS
syste
m
can
be
some
what
more
conv
enien
t
notati
onall
y.
In
fact,
in
certai
n
fields
,
speci
alize
d unit
syste
ms
are
used
to
simpl
ify
form
ulas
even
furth
er
than
either
SI or
CGS
, by
elimi
natin
g
const
ants
throu
gh
some
syste
m
of nat
ural
units.
For
exam
ple,
those
in par
ticle
physi
cs us
ea
syste
m
wher
e
every
quant
ity is
expre
ssed
by
only
one
unit,
the el
ectro
nvolt,
with
lengt
hs,
times
, and
so on
all
conv
erted
into
electr
onvol
ts by
insert
ing
factor
s
of c a
nd
the
Planc
k
const
ant ħ.
This
unit
syste
m is
very
conv
enien
t for
calcu
lation
s
in par
ticle
physi
cs,
but it
woul
d be
impra
ctical
in all
other
conte
xts.

The MKS system of units is a physical system of units that expresses any given measurement
using base units of the metre, kilogram, and/or second (MKS).[1]
Historically the use of the MKS system of units succeeded the centimetre–gram–second system of
units (CGS) in commerce and engineering, (1889). The metre and kilogram system served as the
basis for the development of the International System of Units, which now serves as the international
standard. Because of this, the standards of the CGS system were gradually replaced with metric
standards incorporated from the MKS system.[2] The exact list of units used in the MKS system
changed over time. It incorporated base units other than the metre, kilogram, and second in addition
to derived units. An incomplete list of the base and derived units appears below. Since the MKS
system of units never had a governing body to rule on a standard definition, the list of units
depended on different conventions at different times.

 Cycle (This dimensionless quantity became synonymous with the term "cycle per second" as an
abbreviation. This circumstance confused the exact definition of the term cycle. Therefore, the
phrase "cycle per metre" became ill-defined. The cycle did not become an SI unit.)
 Cycle per second[3]
 Cycle per metre (This measure of wavenumber became ill-defined due to the abbreviation of
"cycle per second" as "cycle".)
In 1901, Giovanni Giorgi proposed to the Associazione elettrotecnica italiana (it) (AEI) that this
system, extended with a fourth unit to be taken from the units of electromagnetism, be used as an
international system.[4]
The foot–pound–second system or FPS system is a system of units built on three fundamental
units: the foot for length, the (avoirdupois) pound for either mass or force (see below), and
the second for time.[1]

Contents
[hide]

 1Variants
o 1.1Pound as mass unit
o 1.2Pound-force as force unit
o 1.3Pound as force unit
 2Other units
o 2.1Molar units
o 2.2Electromagnetic units
o 2.3Units of light
 3Conversions
 5References

Variants
Collectively, the variants of the FPS system were the most common system in technical publications
in English until the middle of the 20th century.[1]
Errors can be avoided and translation between the systems facilitated by labelling all physical
quantities consistently with their units. Especially in the context of the FPS system this is sometimes
known as the Stroud system after William Stroud, who popularized it.[2]

## Three approaches to English units of mass and force or weight[3][4]

 v
 t
 e Force Weight Mass

Base
2nd law of
motion
m = F/a F = W⋅a/g F = m⋅a
British Gravitational English Engineering
System Absolute English (AE)
(BG) (EE)
Acceleration (a) ft/s2 ft/s2 ft/s2
Mass (m) slug pound-mass pound
Force (F),
pound pound-force poundal
weight (W)
pound-force per square
Pressure (p) pound per square inch poundal per square foot
inch

## Pound as mass unit

When the pound is used as a unit of mass, the core of the coherent system is similar and
functionally equivalent to the corresponding subsets of the International System of Units(SI),
using metre, kilogram and second (MKS), and the earlier centimetre–gram–second system of
units (CGS).
In this sub-system, the unit of force is a derived unit known as the poundal.[1]

The international standard symbol for the pound as unit of mass rather than force is lb.[5]

## This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality

standards. No cleanup reason has been specified. Please
help improve this section if you can. (October 2011) (Learn how and
when to remove this template message)

Everett (1861) proposed the metric dyne and erg as the units of force and energy in the FPS
system.
Latimer Clark's (1891) "Dictionary of Measures"
contains celo (acceleration), vel or velo (velocity) and pulse (momentum) as proposed names for
FPS absolute units.

## Pound-force as force unit

The technical or gravitational FPS system,[6] is a coherent variant of the FPS system that is
most common among engineers in the United States. It takes the pound-force as a fundamental
unit of force instead of the pound as a fundamental unit of mass.
In this sub-system, the unit of mass is a derived unit known as the slug.[1]

In the context of the gravitational FPS system, the pound-force (lbf) is sometimes referred to
as the pound (lb).

## Pound as force unit

Another variant of the FPS system uses both the pound-mass and the pound-force, but
neither the slug nor the poundal. The resulting system is not coherent, lacking electrical or
molar units, and is sometimes also known as the British engineering system, although
rarely used nowadays in the United Kingdom.[6]

Other units
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standards. No cleanup reason has been specified. Please
help improve this section if you can. (October 2011) (Learn how
and when to remove this template message)

Molar units
The unit of substance in the FPS system is the pound-mole (lb-mol) = 273.16×1024. Until the
SI decided to adopt the gram-mole, the mole was directly derived from the mass unit as
(mass unit)/(atomic mass unit). The unit (lbf⋅s2/ft)-mol also appears in a former definition of
the atmosphere.
Electromagnetic units
The Electrostatic and Electromagnetic systems are derived from units of length and force,
mainly. As such, these are ready extensions of any system of containing length, mass, time.
Stephen Dresner[7] gives the derived electrostatic and electromagnetic units in both the foot–
pound–second and foot–slug–second systems. In practice, these are most associated with
the centimetre–gram–second system. The 1929 "International Critical Tables" gives in the
symbols and systems fpse = FPS electrostatic system and fpsm = FPS electromagnetic
system. Under the conversions for charge, the following are given. The CRC Handbook of
Chemistry and Physics 1979 (Edition 60), also lists fpse and fpsm as standard
abbreviations.
Electromagnetic FPS (EMU, stat-)
1 fpsm unit = 117.581866 cgsm unit (Biot-second) [clarification needed]
Electrostatic FPS (ESU, ab-)
1 fpse unit = 3583.8953 cgse unit (Franklin)
1 fpse unit = 1.1954588×10−6 abs coulomb
Units of light
The candle and the foot-candle were the first defined units of light, defined in
the Metropolitan Gas Act (1860).[8] The foot-candle is the intensity of light at one
foot from a standard candle. The units were internationally recognised in 1881,
and adopted into the metric system.[9]

Conversions
Together with the fact that the term "weight" is used for the gravitational force in
some technical contexts (physics, engineering) and for mass in others
(commerce, law),[10] and that the distinction often does not matter in practice, the
coexistence of variants of the FPS system causes confusion over the nature of
the unit "pound". Its relation to international, metric units is expressed in
kilograms, not newtons, though, and in earlier times it was defined by means of
a mass prototype to be compared with a two-pan balance which is agnostic of
local gravitational differences.
In July 1959, the various national foot and avoirdupois pound standards were
replaced by the international foot of precisely 0.3048 m and the international
pound of precisely 0.45359237 kg, making conversion between the systems a
matter of simple arithmetic. The conversion for the poundal is given by 1 pdl
= 1 lb·ft/s2 = 0.138254954376 N(precisely).[1]
To convert between the absolute and gravitational FPS systems one needs to
fix the standard acceleration g which relates the pound to the pound-force.

While g strictly depends on one's location on the Earth surface, since 1901
in most contexts it is fixed conventionally at
precisely g0 = 9.80665 m/s2 ≈ 32.17405 ft/s2.[1] Therefore, the slug is
about 32.17405 lb or 14.593903 kg.