The degree Celsius is the unit of temperature on the Celsius scale[1] (originally known as the centigrade scale outside Sweden),[2] one of two temperature scales used in the International System of Units (SI), the other being the Kelvin scale. The degree Celsius (symbol: °C) can refer to a specific temperature on the Celsius scale or a unit to indicate a difference or range between two temperatures. It is named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744), who developed a variant of it in 1742. The unit was called centigrade in several languages (from the Latin centum, which means 100, and gradus, which means steps) before 1968, when it was renamed to honour Celsius and also to remove confusion with the term for one hundredth of a gradian in some languages. Most countries use this scale; the other major scale, Fahrenheit, is still used in the United States, some island territories, and Liberia. The Kelvin scale is of use in the sciences, with 0 K (−273.15 °C) representing absolute zero.

degree Celsius
A thermometer calibrated in degrees Celsius
General information
Unit systemSI
Unit oftemperature
Named afterAnders Celsius
x °C in ...... corresponds to ...
   SI base units   (x + 273.15) K
   Imperial/US units   (9/5x + 32) °F

Since 1743, the Celsius scale has been based on 0 °C for the freezing point of water and 100 °C for the boiling point of water at 1 atm pressure. Prior to 1743 the values were reversed (i.e. the boiling point was 0 degrees and the freezing point was 100 degrees). The 1743 scale reversal was proposed by Jean-Pierre Christin.

By international agreement, between 1954 and 2019 the unit degree Celsius and the Celsius scale were defined by absolute zero and the triple point of water. After 2007, it was clarified that this definition referred to Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water (VSMOW), a precisely defined water standard.[3] This definition also precisely related the Celsius scale to the scale of the kelvin, the SI base unit of thermodynamic temperature with symbol K. Absolute zero, the lowest temperature possible, is defined as being exactly 0 K and −273.15 °C. Until 19 May 2019, the temperature of the triple point of water was defined as exactly 273.16 K (0.01 °C).[4]

On 20 May 2019, the kelvin was redefined so that its value is now determined by the definition of the Boltzmann constant rather than being defined by the triple point of VSMOW. This means that the triple point is now a measured value, not a defined value. The newly-defined exact value of the Boltzmann constant was selected so that the measured value of the VSMOW triple point is exactly the same as the older defined value to within the limits of accuracy of contemporary metrology. The temperature in degree Celsius is now defined as the temperature in kelvins subtracted by 273.15,[5][6] meaning that a temperature difference of one degree Celsius and that of one kelvin are exactly the same,[7] and that the degree Celsius remains exactly equal to the kelvin (i.e., 0 °C remains exactly 273.15 K).

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