A brief history of measurement
LNE-LCM, Cnam-Metrology, Case I 361, 61 rue du Landy, 93210 La Plaine-Saint-Denis, France
The aim of this paper is to situate the subject of measurement and metrology in its historical and philosophical context. Everyone agrees that the numeration of objects and the quantification of the characteristics of some simple systems are very ancient practices encountered in any specific civilisation. Indeed the link between measurement and numeration comes from the beginnings. This is recalled here, as are the links between units and money, between references and authority. Then, the paper identifies and exhibits the different epistemological gaps occurred – or occurring – in the history of measurement in the western countries: geometry versus arithmetics, model versus experiment, prediction versus uncertainty, determinism versus quantum physics. Those gaps are described in relationship to the evolution of the internationally agreed system of units.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2009