Smoot's Ear: The Measure of Humanity
Publisher: Yale University PressFormat: Hardcover
Measures are the subject of this unusual book, in which Robert Tavernor offers a fascinating account of the various measuring systems human beings have devised over two millennia. Tavernor urges us to look beyond the notion that measuring is strictly a scientific activity, divorced from human concerns. Instead, he sets measures and measuring in cultural context and shows how deeply they are connected to human experience and history. The book explores changing attitudes toward measure, focusing on key moments in art, sculpture, architecture, philosophy and the development of scientific thought. It encompasses the journey of western civilization from the construction of the Great Pyramid to the first manned flight to the moon. Beginning with a review of early measuring standards that referred to the feet and inches of ideal bodies, the book then tracks how Enlightenment interest in a truly scientific system of measure, unconnected to the human form, led to the creation of the metric system. This 'rational' approach to measure in turn has inspired artists, architects, writers and others to seek a balance that takes the human story into account.Tavernor concludes with a discussion of measure in our own time, when space travel presents to humankind a direct encounter with the unfathomable measure of the universe.
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