International Bureau of Weights and Measures

The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (French: Bureau international des poids et mesures) is an intergovernmental organisation that was established by the Metre Convention, through which member states act together on matters related to measurement science and measurement standards (i.e. the International System of Units). The organisation is usually referred to by its French initialism, BIPM. The BIPM's secretariat and formal meetings are housed in the organisations headquarters in Sèvres, France.

International Bureau of Weights and Measures
Metre Convention signatories
Formation20 May 1875 (1875-05-20)
Region served
Official language
French and English
Martin Milton

The BIPM is supervised by the International Committee for Weights and Measures (French: Comité international des poids et mesures, CIPM), a directorate of eighteen members that meet normally biannually, 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 59 Member States (as of November 2018).[1] It is based at the Pavillon de Breteuil in Sèvres, France, a 4.35 ha (10.7-acre) site (originally 2.52 ha or 6.2 acres)[2] granted to the Bureau by the French Government in 1876. Since 1969 the site of the Pavillon de Breteuil is considered international territory and the BIPM has all the rights and privileges accorded to an intergovernmental organisation.[3] The status was further clarified by the French decree No 70-820 of 9 September 1970.[2]


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 ionizing 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 dotation. The final programme of work is determined by the CIPM in accordance with the dotation agreed by the CGPM.

Currently, main work of the BIPM include:[4]

  • scientific and technical activities carried out in its four departments: chemistry, ionizing 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 that aim to increase the effectiveness within the worldwide metrology community of those Member State and Associates with emerging metrology systems;
  • a resource centre providing database and publications for international metrology.

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).[5]


Since its establishment, the directors of the BIPM have been:[6][7]

Gilbert GoviItaly1875–1877
J. PernetSwitzerland1877–1879Acting director
Ole Jacob BrochNorway1879–1889
J.-René BenoîtFrance1889–1915
Charles Édouard GuillaumeSwitzerland1915–1936
Albert PérardFrance1936–1951
Charles VoletSwitzerland1951–1961
Jean TerrienFrance1962–1977
Pierre GiacomoFrance1978–1988
Terry J. QuinnUnited Kingdom1988–2003Honorary director
Andrew J. WallardUnited Kingdom2004–2010Honorary director
Michael KühneGermany2011–2012
Martin J. T. MiltonUnited Kingdom2013–present

Metrological international projects

Flow measurement

The BIPM centralises diverse international projects involving public & independent institutes of metrology.

For example:

  • BIPM: International Key Comparison of Liquid Hydrocarbon Flow Facilities CCM-FF-K2 (Final Report) (2008).[8]

See also


  1. "Brief history of the SI". BIPM. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  2. Page, Chester H; Vigoureux, Paul, eds. (20 May 1975). The International Bureau of Weights and Measures 1875–1975: NBS Special Publication 420. Washington, D.C.: National Bureau of Standards. pp. 26–27.
  3. "History of the Pavillon de Breteuil". BIPM. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  4. "BIPM: Our work programme". BIPM. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  5. "BIPM Time Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)". BIPM. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  6. "Directors of the BIPM since 1875". Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  7. "NPL Fellow, Dr Martin Milton, is new Director at foundation of world's measurement system". QMT News. Quality Manufacturing Today. August 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
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