The Celsius system of temperature measurement is part of the metric system. As of 2011, most nations worldwide officially use the metric system, with the United States a significant exception. The Celsius scale is used not only to gauge weather conditions, but also to measure the temperature of the human body, as well as in a plethora of scientific and industrial applications.
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In the Celsius system, water freezes at -17.8 degrees C and boils at 37.8 degrees C, while in Fahrenheit, water freezes at 0 degrees C and boils at 100 degrees C. Because the difference between the freezing and boiling points is 82.2 degrees C in the Fahrenheit system but only 37.8 degrees C in the Celsius system, the Celsius system operates on a smaller scale than does the Fahrenheit system. Due to this 100-degree interval, degrees Celsius are sometimes referred to as degrees centigrade. To convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the temperature by the fraction 9/5, then add 32. To convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 from the temperature, then multiply by 5/9.
Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius invented the Celsius scale in 1742, and it soon became the prevalent system of measuring temperature on continental Europe. Around the same period, the Fahrenheit system developed in Great Britain, becoming the dominant system there, and spreading throughout her English-speaking colonies. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, most English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, converted to the metric system. With that switch, they adopted the Celsius scale and phased out the Fahrenheit scale.
The vast majority of the world's countries use the Celsius scale to measure temperature. The United States is the only sizeable nation in which widespread use of the Fahrenheit scale persists. A handful of smaller countries still use the Fahrenheit scale to varying extents, including Belize, Burma, Liberia, Palau and a few of the historically British-influenced Caribbean nations, such as Jamaica. Weather temperatures in some parts of Canada and Great Britain are occasionally reported in degrees Fahrenheit, mainly for the benefit of older residents who grew up accustomed to the Fahrenheit scale, prior to their governments' conversion to the metric system.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Based on multiples of 10, the Celsius system simplifies calculations, making it the preferred system of measurement among scientists and engineers throughout the world, including those in the United States. But the Fahrenheit scale, with each degree representing a smaller interval, is more precise, reducing the need for decimals or fractions. Also, its higher freezing point decreases the use of negative numbers.
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- Encyclopedia Britannica: Metric System
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Celsius Temperature Scale
- UnitConversion.org: Degree Fahrenheit Conversion
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Facts About Celsius Temperature Scale Comparison with Kelvin and Fahrenheit Temperature Scale
- CalculateWhat.com: Temperature Conversion
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Facts About Celsius Temperature Scale as Discussed in Temperature Physics