International standards are standards developed by international standards organizations. International standards are available for consideration and use worldwide. The most prominent organization is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
International standards are one way of overcoming technical barriers in international commerce caused by differences among technical regulations and standards developed independently and separately by each nation, national standards organization, or company. Technical barriers arise when different groups come together, each with a large user base, doing some well established thing that between them is mutually incompatible. Establishing international standards is one way of preventing or overcoming this problem.
Maudslay's work, as well as the contributions of other engineers, accomplished a modest amount of industry standardization; some companies' in-house standards spread a bit within their industries. Joseph Whitworth's screw thread measurements were adopted as the first (unofficial) national standard by companies around the country in 1841. It came to be known as the British Standard Whitworth, and was widely adopted in other countries.Gilbert, K. R., & Galloway, D. F., 1978, "Machine Tools". In C. Singer, et al., (Eds.), A history of technology. Oxford, Clarendon Press & Lee, S. (Ed.), 1900, Dictionary of national biography, Vol LXI. Smith Elder, London
By the end of the 19th century differences in standards between companies were making trade increasingly difficult and strained. The BSI Group was established in London in 1901 as the world's first national standards body.Robert C McWilliam. BSI: The first hundred years. 2001. Thanet Press. London After the First World War, similar national bodies were established in other countries. The Deutsches Institut für Normung was set up in Germany in 1917, followed by its counterparts, the American National Standard Institute and the French AFNOR, both in 1918.
In 1904, Crompton represented Britain at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis as part of a delegation by the Institute of Electrical Engineers. He presented a paper on standardisation, which was so well received that he was asked to look into the formation of a commission to oversee the process.Johnson, J & Randell, W (1948) Colonel Crompton and the Evolution of the Electrical Industry, Longman Green. By 1906 his work was complete and he drew up a permanent constitution for the first international standards organization, the International Electrotechnical Commission. The body held its first meeting that year in London, with representatives from 14 countries. In honour of his contribution to electrical standardisation, Lord Kelvin was elected as the body's first President.
ISO (ISA) was founded in 1926 with a broader remit to enhance international cooperation for all technical standards and specifications. The body was suspended in 1942 during World War II.
After the war, ISA was approached by the recently formed United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) with a proposal to form a new global standards body. In October 1946, ISA and UNSCC delegates from 25 countries met in London and agreed to join forces to create the new International Organization for Standardization (ISO); the new organization officially began operations in February 1947.