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The measure of all things : the seven-year odyssey and hidden error that transformed the world

Author: Ken Alder
Publisher: New York : Free Press, ©2002.
Edition/Format:   Book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
In June 1792, the erudite and cosmopolitan Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre and the cautious and scrupulous Pierre-Francois-Andre Mechain set out from Paris -- one north to Dunkirk, the other south to Barcelona to calculate the length of the meter. In the face of death threats from village revolutionary councils, superstitious peasants, and civil war, they had only their wits and their letters to each other for  Read more...
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Genre/Form: History
Named Person: J B J Delambre; Pierre Méchain; J B J Delambre; Pierre Méchain; Jean-Baptiste Delambre; Pierre Méchain; J B J Delambre; Pierre Méchain
Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Ken Alder
ISBN: 074321675X 9780743216753 0965460924 9780965460927
OCLC Number: 49699440
Description: x, 422 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.
Contents: North-going astronomer --
South-going astronomer --
Metric of revolution --
Castle of Mont-Jouy --
Calculating people --
Fear of France --
Convergence --
Triangulation --
Empire of science --
Broken arc --
Mechain's mistake, Delambre's peace --
Metered globe --
Epilogue: Shape of our world.
Responsibility: Ken Alder.
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Abstract:

In June 1792, the erudite and cosmopolitan Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre and the cautious and scrupulous Pierre-Francois-Andre Mechain set out from Paris -- one north to Dunkirk, the other south to Barcelona to calculate the length of the meter. In the face of death threats from village revolutionary councils, superstitious peasants, and civil war, they had only their wits and their letters to each other for support. Their findings would be used to create what we now know as the metric system. Despite their painstaking and Herculean efforts, Mechain made a mistake in his calculations that he covered up. The guilty knowledge of his error drove him to the brink of madness, and in the end, he died in an attempt to correct himself. Only then was his mistake discovered. Delambre decided to seal all evidence of the error in a vault at the Paris Observatory. Two hundred year later, historian Ken Alder discovered the truth. With scintillating prose and wry wit, Alder uses these previously overlooked letters, diaries, and journals to bring to life a remarkable time when everything was open to question and the light of reason made every dream seem possible.

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