To convert a length of one meter into common English system measurements such as feet, multiply by 3.28; to convert into inches, multiply by 39.37; and to convert into yards, multiply by 1.09. To convert one meter into common nautical units such as fathoms, multiply by 0.54; to convert to leagues, multiply by 0.000207; and to convert to nautical miles multiply by 0.00054. The International System of Units, or SI, uses the meter as its base unit of length.
The idea of a decimal-based unit of length was first put forward by the English philosopher John Wilkins in 1693. In 1790, the French Academy of Sciences created a commission to define a single scale for all measures. The commission recommended a decimal system, and a basic unit of length defined as equal to one ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator. The unit was named the mètre after the French word for measure. Metre is the typical spelling of the unit in all English-speaking countries except for the United States, which uses the spelling meter.
In 1960, the eleventh General Conference on Weights and Measures defined the meter as equal to 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of light emitted by the krypton-86 isotope in a vacuum. In 1983, the conference redefined a meter as the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.