Measure of All Things

Alder, Ken. The Measure of All Things: the Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World. Read by Byron Jennings. New York: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2002.

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 savants) to do it. Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre was to head north from Paris while his partner, Pierre-Francois-Andre Mechain headed south. [As an aside, when Alder referred to them as the north and south going astronomers I instantly thought of Dr. Seuss & his Sneetches. Yup, I’m a seven year old at heart.] What was supposed to be a year-long adventure turned into seven but the end result was the definition of the meter and the birth of the metric system. Part biographical, part scientific, part historical and part adventure Alder adds intrigue when he delves into a secret error that only Delambre and Mechain knew about. He goes on to question exactly what is an error and he speculates on the lives of the men who changed the course of weights and measures.

Reason read: April is National Math, Science and Technology month

Author fact: Alder is the author of a couple of other books but this is the only one on my list.

Book trivia: The Measure of All Things includes illustrations and photographs. My favorite photo is of the Rodez Cathedral

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Techno-Thrillers” (p 232).

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