We measure rainfall and radiation, the depths of space and the emptiness of atoms, calories and steps, happiness and fear. If we could not measure then we could not observe the world around us; we could not experiment, learn, and co-operate. But why did this urge to measure flourish? And when did measurement become ubiquitous? It is an incredible story that spans hunter-gatherer societies to ancient Egyptians, the French Revolution to the relentless quantification of the 21st century self. It is a tale that tracks humanity’s search for dependable truths in a chaotic universe. Full of mavericks and visionaries, adventure and breakthroughs, ‘Beyond Measure’ shows that measurement has not only made the world we live in, it has made us too.
A revelatory and vibrant story of measurement which will make you look at the world around you anew.
‘A wildly ambitious book by a formidably talented young writer.’
‘Vivid, epic, and full of curiosities. This is a book to delight and fascinate.’
TIM HARFORD, bestselling author of How to Make the World Add Up
‘Beyond Measure offers, with much intellectual flair and style, a bracing new history: how the once innocent urge to quantification took over our lives, our sense of ourselves and the world.’
‘The exact value of this book is hard to quantify. Weighty, precise and satisfyingly obsessive, it’s also an absolute pleasure to read.’
SIMON GARFIELD, bestselling author of The Timekeepers
We measure rainfall and radiation, the depths of space and the emptiness of atoms, calories and steps, happiness and pain. But how did measurement become ubiquitous in modern life? When did humanity first take up scales and rulers, and why does this practice hold authority over so many aspects of our lives?
Written with vim and dazzling intelligence, James Vincent provides a fresh and original perspective on human history as he tracks our long search for dependable truths in a chaotic universe. Full of mavericks and visionaries, adventure and the unexpected, Beyond Measure shows that measurement has not only made the world we live in, it has made us too.
‘An epic story about humankind’s relationship with the physical world. Vincent is an erudite and perceptive guide, who with energy and skill weaves history, science and reportage into an enthralling tale.’
‘As an account of the lengths humanity has gone to in the name of measurement, this quirky history is inch-perfect.’
‘Gripping.’ NEW SCIENTIST
‘Worth its weight in gold . . . Enlightening.’ OBSERVER
‘Fascinating . . . an erudiite and elegant read.’ MAIL ON SUNDAY