Ancient Measurements => Lines

Michael A. Ivie mivie at MONTANA.EDU
Wed Oct 6 13:07:53 CDT 2004

Dear Chris,

Christine von Hayek at the then-British Museum (Natural History) had a
fantastic little scale with English, French and German lines on it. They
were all different.  She included the various sizes of each in her 1973
paper "Reclassification of the subfamily Agrypninae (Coleoptera:
Elateridae)" published in  Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History)
Entomology Supplement 20: 1-309.  Unfortunately, my copy walked several
years ago, and I have not been able to replace it, but it had all kinds of
wonderful information.  If I remember correctly, it was in the back in an
appendix.  It could also have been in the 1979 Additions and Corrections,
published in the Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Entomology
38: 183-261, as my copy had them bound together.


christian thompson wrote:

> 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


Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.
Department of Entomology
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

(406) 994-4610 (voice)
(406) 994-6029 (FAX)
mivie at

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