A New Yorker Best Book of 2022
A vibrant account of how measurement has invisibly shaped our world, from ancient civilizations to the modern day.
From the cubit to the kilogram, the humble inch to the speed of light, measurement is a powerful tool that humans invented to make sense of the world. In this revelatory work of science and social history, James Vincent dives into its hidden world, taking readers from ancient Egypt, where measuring the annual depth of the Nile was an essential task, to the intellectual origins of the metric system in the French Revolution, and from the surprisingly animated rivalry between metric and imperial, to our current age of the “quantified self.” At every turn, Vincent is keenly attuned to the political consequences of measurement, exploring how it has also been used as a tool for oppression and control.
Beyond Measure reveals how measurement is not only deeply entwined with our experience of the world, but also how its history encompasses and shapes the human quest for knowledge.