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TORONTO CHIROPODIST, D.Ch., B.Sc., PODIATRIC MEDICINE

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  • DR. HARDY, OWNER OF ACADEMY FOOT AND ORTHOTIC CLINICS SHARES HIS KNOWLEDGE ON THE ORIGIN OF THE FOOT AS AN UNIT OF MEASUREMENT

Historical origin[edit]

Determination of the rod, using the length of the left foot of 16 randomly chosen people coming from church service. Woodcut published in the bookGeometrei by Jakob Köbel (Frankfurt, c. 1536).

Historically the human body has been used to provide the basis for units of length.[34] The foot of a Caucasian male is typically about 15.3% of his height,[35] giving a person of 160 cm (5 ft 3 in) a foot of 245 mm and one of 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) a foot of 275 mm. These figures are less than the foot used in most cities over time, suggesting that the "foot" was actually a synonym for a "shoe".[original research?]

Archeologists believe that the Egyptians and Mesopotamians favoured the cubit while the Romans and the Greeks favoured the foot. Originally both the Greeks and the Romans subdivided the foot into 16 digits, but in later years, the Romans also subdivided the foot into 12 unciae (from which both the English words "inch" and "ounce" are derived). The Greek foot (ποὐς,pous) varied from city to city and ranged between 270 mm and 350 mm, but lengths used for temple construction appear to have been about 295 mm or 325 mm, the former being close to the size of the Roman foot. The standard Roman foot (pes) was normally about 295.7 mm, but in the provinces, the pes Drusianus (foot of Nero Claudius Drusus) with a length of about 334 mm was used. (In reality, this foot predated Drusus).[36]

After the fall of the Roman Empire, some Roman traditions were continued but others fell into disuse. In AD 790 Charlemagne attempted to reform the units of measure in his domains. His units of length were based on the toise and in particular the toise de l'Écritoire, the distance between the fingertips of the outstretched arms of a man.[37] The toise has 6 pied (feet) each of 326.6 mm (12.86 in).

He was unsuccessful in introducing a standard unit of length throughout his realm: an analysis of the measurements of Charlieu Abbey shows that during the 9th century the Roman foot of 296.1 mm was used; when it was rebuilt in the 10th century, a foot of about 320 mm[Note 1] was used. At the same time, monastic buildings used the Carolignian foot of 340 mm.[Note 1][38]

The procedure for verification of the foot as described in the 16th century by Jacob Koebel in his book Geometrei. Von künstlichem Feldmessen und absehen is:[39]

Stand at the door of a church on a Sunday and bid 16 men to stop, tall ones and small ones, as they happen to pass out when the service is finished; then make them put their left feet one behind the other, and the length thus obtained shall be a right and lawful rood to measure and survey the land with, and the 16th part of it shall be the right and lawful foot.

In England[edit]

Imperial measurement standards,Royal Observatory, Greenwich

The Roman foot was introduced to Britain in the 1st century AD. The length of the Roman foot has been estimated at 296 mm or 11.65 inches. In the 5th century, the Anglo-Saxons introduced the North German foot of 335 mm (13.2 inches). The new foot was used for land measurement, while the Roman foot continued to be used in the construction crafts. Some time between 1266 and 1303 the weights and measures of England were radically revised by a law known as the Composition of Yards and Perches (Compositio ulnarum et perticarum)[40] often known as the Compositio for short. This law, attributed to either Henry III or his successor Edward I, instituted a new foot that was exactly 10/11 the length of the old foot, with corresponding reductions in the size of the yard, ell, inch, and barleycorn. Miles, furlongs and rods, however, remained the same. The furlong remained an eighth of a mile, but changed from 600 old feet to 660 new feet. The rod remained the same length, but changed from 15 old feet to 16½ new feet.[41]

Ordinatum est, quod tria grana ordei sicca et rotunda faciunt pollicem, duodecim pollices faciunt pedem, tres pedes faciunt ulnam, quinque ulnae et dimidia faciunt perticam, et quadraginta perticae in longitudine et quatuor in latitudine faciunt unam acram. — Compositio ulnarum et perticarum

"It is ordained that three dry round grains of barley make an inch, 12 inches make a foot, three feet make a yard, five yards and a half make a perch, and 40 perches in length and four in breadth make one acre."

COPIED FROM WIKIPEDIA

 

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