Posted by Harry on November 29, 1999
In Reply to: Foot equals 12 inches posted by Teach 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.
: : : : G.
: : : 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.
: : I've seen his suit of armour and he was certainly no 8ft giant. He probably was perfectly normally proportioned: or at least as normal as one can determine from an old suit of armour. Maybe they were lying about it being his suit of armour.
: Henry, youngest son of 'William I' did indeed live from 1068 to 1135 but as 'King Henry I' he reigned from 1100-1135 having succeeded his elder brother William II who died on August 2nd 1100 after being shot by an arrow whilst hunting. 'Henry I', who, unlike most Royals through the ages, was well educated, died after eating too many Lamprey - a warning to us all methinks: eat these fish in moderation.
: Sorry to be a pedant but it's a dull Friday, no offence intended.
I think this can be cleared up if we establish that the distance measured on the body of 'Henry I' was from his finger tip to the end of his nose with the arm extended such that, with the King looking straight ahead, the measuring stick lay along his arm. I somehow don't think he offered himself up for measurement on a frequent basis but depended on a transfer standard which was maintained under some official guardianship.
By the way he was not 8ft tall.