Posted by: episystechpubs | June 10, 2014

Editor’s Corner: A different kind of degree

After yesterday’s Editor’s Corner on academic degrees, I received a question on some different types of degree (Celsius and Fahrenheit). Wouldn’t you know, there are rules on capitalizing the different terms of measurement that are derived from proper names. The standard rule from the Chicago Manual of Style is to lowercase the full name of the unit of measure (if it is based on a person’s name), but to use an uppercase letter to abbreviate the measurement.

Of course there is an exception to that exceptional rule: when a term follows the word “degree” it is capitalized. For example, “It was a hot day in Athens—the thermometer reached 42 degrees Celsius.”

I’ve compiled a table below based on information from Wikipedia and the Chicago Manual of Style. It includes different measurements named after people, what the units measure, and a little information about what those folks did for a living. Enjoy!

Full Term Abbrev. Measures Named After…
ampere A electricity André-Marie Ampère


French mathematician and physicist, considered the father of electrodynamics

angstrom Å length

(one ten-billionth of a meter)

Anders Jonas Ångström


Swedish physicist

degree Baumé Bé or °Bé density of liquids Antoine Baumé


French pharmacist

degree Celsius °C temperature Anders Celsius


Swedish astronomer

curie Ci radioactivity Marie Curie

(1867 – 4 July 1934)

Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist

Pierre Curie

(1859 –1906)

French physicist

dalton Da atomic mass John Dalton

(1766 –1844)

English chemist, meteorologist and physicist

faraday F electrical charge Michael Faraday

(1791 –1867)

English scientist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry

degree Fahrenheit °F temperature Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit


German physicist, engineer, and glass blower

hertz Hz frequency (cycles per second) Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

(1857 –1894)

German physicist

joule J energy James Prescott Joule


English physicist

kelvin (no degree symbol used) K temperature William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin


Belfast-born engineer and physicist

newton N force Sir Isaac Newton

1642 –1727

English physicist and mathematician

pascal Pa force per square unit of area Blaise Pascal

(1623 –1662)

French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and Christian philosopher

degree Réaumur °R temperature René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur

(1683 to 1757)

French scientist

siemens S electricity Ernst Werner von Siemens

(1816 –1892)

German inventor and industrialist.

tesla T strength of magnetic fields Nikola Tesla

(1856 –1943)

Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist

volt V electricity Alessandro Volta


Italian physicist

watt W rate of energy conversion or transfer James Watt


Scottish engineer

weber Wb magnetic flux Wilhelm Eduard Weber


German physicist

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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