Ancient Measurements => Lines

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Wed Oct 6 14:46:24 CDT 2004

In the early literature, at least for insects (Entomology), many
european authors gave measurements in LINES (lignes in French), but
there seems to be confuse about whether this was a uniform standard
across European countries and what a line is equal to.

Some earlier workers, Scopoli (1763, Entomologia Carniolica) printed a
scale in the front of his work. His line was equal to 2.14 mm. Fairchild
(1967, Pacific Insects 9: 75) wrote that the line of Wiedemann (another
earlier worker from 1810-30) used a line equal to 2.18.  Once I copied
information from an "Webster's Unabridged Dictionary" which had a table
indicating that a line from France was equal to 2.256 mm, 2.12 for
England, 1.9 mm for Chile. Unfortunately I copied that information when
I was a graduate student back in the mid 1960's and didn't note the
edition of the Webster's.

If any one have better information or citations on lines as a unit of
measurement in taxonomy, I would appreciate them..

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
c/o Smithsonian Institution
MRC-0169 NHB
PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at e-mail  web site

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