Beyond Measure review: How measuring the world betrays its human side

Our neat ways of measuring tend to seem like they have always existed. A romp through history shows it is much messier and more human than that

Humans 15 June 2022

G169PY Ancient Egyptian gold rings being weighed. Wall painting from tomb at Thebes, 14th century BC. Weights and measures were among the earliest tools invented by man. Early Babylonian and Egyptian records, and the Bible, indicate that length was first measure

Ancient Egypt’s systems of measurement were based on the human body

Science History Images/Alamy

Beyond Measure

James Vincent

Faber

WE TAKE the certainty of measurements for granted, but their story is as complicated and changeable as any other part of human culture. Journalist James Vincent makes this clear in his new book, which explores the history of calculating things.

Beyond Measure is a pacy romp through time and space, moving from ancient Egyptians with their body-centric measuring systems to present-day scientists seeking to standardise measurement. But it isn’t just the stories of …

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