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Feet per Mile

Date: 12/08/98 at 07:55:17
From: Dana
Subject: Miles 


If I find out the answer to who decided that 5,280 ft will be in a 
mile, I'll get extra credit. I just want to know where the measurement 
for a mile came from.


Date: 12/08/98 at 10:44:40
From: Doctor Rick
Subject: Re: Miles

Hi, Dana. A good source for lots of confusing facts about "English" 
measures is this Web site, by Jack Proot:   

Here is what it says about the mile and related units:

Remarks: in Old England, the mile - derived from the Roman "mille 
passus" or 1000 double steps - was originally 5000 feet long as in the 
Roman definition (1 "passus" = 5 feet). Later, it took 5280 feet to 
accommodate exactly 8 furlongs, the most popular measure of the time.

Actually, the usual happened: the foot and the rod went slowly their
separate ways, being used by different industries (the weaver and the 
farmer ....) Things had to be straightened up and, as the foot and the 
rod were already entrenched, we find these strange figures: 16.5 ft/rod 
and 5280 ft/mile. This was voted by the House under Queen Elizabeth I 
in 1595.

It should be noted that the furlong comes from the Greek and Roman 
stadion, which they themselves inherited from more ancient times. It 
seems to be the optimal length for the traditional plough.

The rod was determined by lining up 16 men (after the Sunday Service, 
the story goes) and measuring the combined length of all their left 
feet. These 16 feet make up 16.5 "feet." Thickness of the shoes? Gaps 
between feet? This is tradition ....

- Doctor Rick, The Math Forum   
Associated Topics:
Elementary Definitions
Elementary Math History/Biography
Elementary Terms & Units of Measurement

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