Ancient Measurements => Lines

Tony Irwin tony.irwin at BTINTERNET.COM
Thu Oct 7 19:11:00 CDT 2004

Chris -
Burmeister's Manual of Entomology (translated by Shuckard, 1836, p.26) says
" A universally known measure, - the Paris line, - the twelfth part of an
inch, has been adopted as unit for the determination of the length of
One-twelfth of an English inch is 2.117 mm, but the Paris line was
one-twelfth of a Paris inch (pouce) - i.e. 2.258 mm (all rounded up).
Fortunately when the French aristocracy were "all rounded up", the metric
system was introduced and we eventually adopted millimetres   :-)
Tony Irwin

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU]On
Behalf Of christian thompson
Sent: 06 October 2004 19:46
Subject: Ancient Measurements => Lines

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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