The Measure of All Things: The Seven-year Odyssey that Transformed the World

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Abacus, 2004 - Astronomers - 480 pages
9 Reviews

THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS tells the story of how science, revolutionary politics, and the dream of a new economy converged to produce both the metric system and the first struggle over globalization.
Amidst the scientific fervor of the Revolution two French scientists, Delambre and Mechain, were sent out on an expedition to measure the shape of the world and thereby establish the metre (which was to be one ten-millionth the distance from pole to equator). Their hope was that people would use the globe as the basis of measure rather than an arbitrary system meted out by the monarchs. As one scientist went north along the French meridian and the other south, their experiences diverged just as radically. After seven years, they received a hero's welcome upon their return to Paris. Mechain, however, was obsessed over a minute error in his calculations that he'd discovered and concealed, and which eventually drove him to his grave. His death forced his colleague Delambre to choose between loyalty to his friend and his science.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - SeriousGrace - LibraryThing

While the French Revolution raged around them, the Royal Academy of Sciences had a plan - to measure the circumference of the world and they knew just the two scientists (astronomers also known as ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - hcubic - LibraryThing

In 1792, the French Academy of Sciences appointed two respected scientists to survey a north-south meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona, for the purpose of determining the size (and shape) of the earth ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Ken Alder has a PhD from Harvard in History of Science as well as a Physics degree. In 1998 he won the Dexter Prize for the best book on the history of technology.

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