Posted by D Thomas on November 26, 1999
In Reply to: Foot equals 12 inches posted by gordon chapman on November 26, 1999
: : : Can anyone tell me where or how one foot equaled 12 inches came from ?
: : Our modern measurement of 12 inches equaling 1 foot actually comes from a king's arm. Or, to be more precise, one-third of a king's arm. According to Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts, the arm under discussion is that of King Henry I (1068-1135) of England, who had a thirty-six inch long arm and decreed that the standard "foot" should be one-third of that length.
: Interesting, but the whole 12 inches thing dates back much further than that, and the number 12 crops up in many other places - months in the year, 12 hours in the standard clock, etc..
: I can't remember much about it (it was skewl and a long time ago) but it had something to do with Egypt or Babylonia or Phoenicia or something out there, sorry I can't be much other use.
It may seem churlish to say so but it's an irrefutable fact that Henry I's arm was not 36 inches long.
For a normally proportioned human the distance from finger tip to finger tip measured across the body with arms outstretched and parallel to the ground equates closely to their height (the measurement is made across the back to avoid unfair advantage to those more amply endowed in the upper body area). A 36inch arm length would therefore mean that Henry I was either an 8ft + giant, had his knuckles rubbing the ground or was 6ft tall with the narrowest shoulders in Christendom.