What is the history of measurement systems?

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gsenviro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With the evolution and development of civilization, the need for various measurements arose. The first measurements dealt with length and quantity (weight) and (understandably) initial units were related to parts of the human body and their surroundings. The earliest measurement systems were developed around 3 to 4 millenia BC. Over the course of human history, some of the most commonly used measurement systems include the Babylonian system, Indus system, Egyptian system, Phileterian system, Olympic system, Roman system, English/British system and metric system. 

Initial measurement units included human body parts (hand, finger, foot, etc.) for length and periods of heavenly bodies (such as moon, sun, etc.) for time. Because of the limited information exchange between civilizations, different measurement systems developed at around the same time until standardization came about (mainly as a matter of royal decree, etc.). The initial units of length included cubit from which inch, foot and yard evolved; miles were adopted later on. Grain was the original unit for measuring mass; pound, ounces and carats were adopted later on. Some of the mass units that are still used include carat, ton and pound. Babylonians are credited with dividing the day into hours, minutes and seconds. First described in 1668, the metric system is the dominant measurement in today's world.

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