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Vivian Linacre's General Rule - Measures explained


Loanhead of Daviot, Aberdeenshire
Image: Prehistoric Britain

In Vivian Linacre’s The General Rule, A Guide to Customary Weights and Measures, which was published this year, we learn that the origins of the customary measures of length used in the Anglosphere originated in the megalithic period, when Stonehenge and the other 900 circles still standing in Britain and Brittany were built. Their yards were 2.72 feet. Their rod was 6.8 feet.

(In an interesting aside, Linacre describes the research of Anne Macauley (1924-1998) who studied the monuments and showed that these megalithic people understood the Fibonacci series of numbers and the Golden Mean five thousand years before Leonardo of Pisa explained them. The evidence also suggests they used square roots and Pythagorean mathematics two thousand years before Pythagoras.)

In a book that Conn Iggulden, Jilly Cooper, Patrick Moore, Simon Heffer, Tim Rice, and Andrew Roberts call fascinating, Linacre tackles the origins and uses of astronomical, nautical and aeronautical measures, and measurements of time, volume, music, sound, temperature, power, speed, stress, and energy.

Inches, feet, yards and miles are based on measurements derived from the human body. That is why we instinctively understand them. They are largely duodecimal "because 12 is far more easily factorized than 10, being divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6 instead of ony 2 and 5. it also lends itself to halving and doubling" which is why financial markets around the world "quote and calculate yields and interest rates in fractions".

Vivian Linacre is President of the British Weights and Measures Association. The book is available directly from him at 21 Marshall Place, Perth PH2 8AG, UK for £12 or from Amazon.