Saturday, November 1, 2014


Cunningham, Kevin.  Measurement.  Morgan Reynolds     2013  64p  $27.45  ISBN 978-1-59935-398-2  ms/hs  series: The Biography of Numbers Nonfiction  E-BN

This book is a wonderful presentation, filled with colorful illustrations, of how measurement systems developed and why they were needed.  Covering everything from ancient civilizations through contemporary efforts to standardize measurements worldwide, this book is engaging for the casual reader and filled with facts for the student researcher.  It includes short biographies of famous people who influenced the progress toward standardization of measurements, a timeline, a glossary, lists for further reading and an index. Cunningham traces the history of measurement and the impact of commerce and government on standardizing units of measure.  He notes the reluctance of the United States to follow the metric system, and holding out as only one of three countries in the world to use a different measurement system.  Students might find it interesting that standardization was finalized less than 60 years ago, with the adoption of the International System of Units to denote a common basis for measuring distance, mass, time, temperature, light, electric current, and chemical units.  Outstanding!

The reviewer’s only concern is the title of the first chapter, “The Cun and the Cubit,” which will leave readers scrambling to other sources to find the definition of cun,” as the word does not appear in the book.     

The Biography of Numbers consists of four titles written in an engaging style with colorful illustrations, providing a quick history of mathematics and the use of numbers.  They include brief biographies, practical applications of numbers, and timelines. Gr. 6-12.   

Summary: Provides the history of the development of systems to measure volume, length, and weight; why standardization of weights and measures is needed; and why it has involved such a long and difficult process to establish.  Colorfully illustrated. Gr. 6-12. 

Measurement, History of Science                       --Lois McNicol

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