Electromagnetic Units, the Giorgi System, and the Revised International System of Units
Ronald B. Goldfarb
The centimeter-gram-second system of electromagnetic units (EMU) has been used in magnetism since the latter part of the 19th century. The International System of Units (SI), a successor to Giorgi's 1901 rationalized four-dimensional meter-kilogram-second system, was adopted by the General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1960 with the ampere as the fourth base unit. However, EMU remains in common use for the expression of magnetic data. The forthcoming revision of the SI will accentuate its differences with EMU. The permeability of vacuum will no longer be a fixed constant, which recalls the Giorgi system and prompts a review of historical arguments on the concepts of magnetic flux density and magnetic field strength in vacuum. The redefinition of the ampere in terms of the fixed numerical values of two defining constants could allow for independent experimental measurements of the permeability of vacuum, i.e., determination of the magnetic constant.