In this epic story of the invention of a global network of weights, scales and instruments for measurement, Robert P. Crease traces the evolution of the system, from the use of flutes to measure distance in the dynasties of ancient China and figurines to weigh gold in West Africa, to the creation of the French metric and British imperial systems. Into this captivating history Crease weaves stories of colourful individuals, including Thomas Jefferson, an advocate of the metric system and philosopher Charles S. Peirce, the first to tie the metre to the wavelength of light. Tracing the dynamic struggle for ultimate precision, World in the Balance demonstrates that measurement is both stranger and more integral to our lives than we ever suspected.
The chairman of the Philosophy Department at Stony Brook University, Robert P. Crease writes the "Critical Point" column for Physics World. He is the author of, among other books, The Great Equations.