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Download The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World Audiobook

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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (286 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ken Alder Narrator: Brian Jennings, Byron Jennings Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2002 ISBN: 9780743562140
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Midst the chaos of the French Revolution, two astronomers set out in opposite directions from Paris to measure the world, one voyaging north to Dunkirk, the other south to Barcelona. Their findings would help define the meter as one ten-millionth of the distance between the pole and the equator. The Measure of All Things is the astonishing story of one of history’s greatest scientific quests, a mission to measure the Earth and define the meter for all nations and for all time.

Yet when Ken Alder located the long-lost correspondence between the two men, along with their mission logbooks, he stumbled upon a two-hundred-year-old secret. The meter, it turns out, is in error. Pierre-François-André Méchain, made contradictory measurements from Barcelona and, in a panic, covered up the discrepancy. The quilty knowledge of his misdeed drove him to the brink of madness, and ultimately to his death. Only then did his partner, Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre, discover the truth and face a fateful choice: what matters more, the truth or the appearance of the truth?

This is a story of two men, a secret, and a timeless human dilemma: is it permissible to perpetuate a small lie in the service of a larger truth? In The Measure of All Things Ken Alder describes a quest that succeeded even as it failed. It is a story for all people, for all time.

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Justin | 2/20/2014

    " This is probably a 3.5 book. At times it's a great read, but there are some dry stretches. Alder does a great job integrating history, science, character studies, adventure stories, and more. He's at his best looking into the psychology of the two main figures, and the twist at the end when he discusses their relationship to error theory. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marks54 | 2/5/2014

    " I got this book as a follow-up to the Longitude book. It chronicles an expedition to exactly determine the length of the meter as a unit of measure by the French Revolutionary government and is a good example of how our weights and measures were established by the work of surveyors that we trying to be accurate and apolitical. This is another chapter of how science can be subverted to political interests, even though that was not the intent of the protagonists. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Skedatt | 1/26/2014

    " A bit too in-depth with some decidedly slanted use of language. Other than that, I learned something new. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 1/17/2014

    " About the effort to measure the Earth and define the length of the meter, all amidst the French Revolution. Interesting mix of science and history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna Ata santiago | 11/17/2013

    " Grabbed this book a long time ago because of the main plot around how the Metric system, particularly the meter, was devised. I loved the whole "triangulation" element that's why I'm giving it 3 stars, but it was "meh" in other areas. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrew | 10/26/2013

    " Interesting book about how the size of the metric meter was determined. Who knew measurement could be interesting? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aaron | 10/18/2013

    " Not something I was entirely interested in, but the writing was quick and eager. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Drew | 7/24/2013

    " Too slow. Couldn't make it through. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Milebehind | 6/27/2013

    " Very interesting book about the scientific and personal challenges involved in developing the metric system. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robin | 6/1/2013

    " What a joy - science being held above all things. I loved the anecdotes of wars being stopped so scientists could measure things, and people going missing in jungles just to get the correct triangulation. This book explains a huge amuont about why the world works as it does. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ben | 3/29/2013

    " Alder relates the events of Delambre and Mechain as they attempt to measure the length of the French meridian during the revolution in order to fix the meter for science. It is an interesting tale of one's man quest for accuracy and his failure that turns to obsession. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rob Godfrey | 2/11/2013

    " I enjoyed this as much for the social history portrayed as well as a story of two men's struggle to get to grips with science. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donald | 6/12/2012

    " A fascinating portrait of the people who helped determine the length of the meter and the difficulties that were faced in promulgating the metric system. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ron | 2/12/2012

    " Who would thing that the history of defining the metre would be both compelling and entertaining. I read this over a week or so and was completely absorbed by the unfolding of this seemingly obscure bit of history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Felix Pütsch | 1/29/2012

    " Fascinating story about the creation of the meter. Who would've thought it was so difficult, a huge effort in times of war. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bird | 11/21/2011

    " Both a history of the meter, a biography of Delambre and Mechain, and a description of France and the rest of Europe in upheaval in the 1790s. Read this book, dammit. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 6/26/2011

    " When my husband bought this book I was like "400 pages about the meter?? You have got to be kidding me" but then I picked it up and couldn't put it down. A great story of not only the origins of the metric system but also about revolutionary France and the evolution of science. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Donna | 6/20/2011

    " This would have gotten 4 or even 5 stars, but the point at which the error occurs is sort of glossed over by the author. I was well past it before I realized it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrickpadovan | 6/6/2011

    " outstanding history of the evolution of the meter "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 4/6/2011

    " About the effort to measure the Earth and define the length of the meter, all amidst the French Revolution. Interesting mix of science and history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ron | 4/9/2010

    " Who would thing that the history of defining the metre would be both compelling and entertaining. I read this over a week or so and was completely absorbed by the unfolding of this seemingly obscure bit of history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aaron | 2/24/2010

    " Not something I was entirely interested in, but the writing was quick and eager. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Drew | 12/19/2009

    " Too slow. Couldn't make it through. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donald | 3/24/2009

    " A fascinating portrait of the people who helped determine the length of the meter and the difficulties that were faced in promulgating the metric system. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracey | 10/14/2008

    " Fascinating book especially for someone who is metrically challenged like me ! It is interesting to find out how the metre came about set against the back drop of the French Revolution. Gives a good insight into how the Revolution effected Paris.
    Worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robin | 9/27/2008

    " What a joy - science being held above all things. I loved the anecdotes of wars being stopped so scientists could measure things, and people going missing in jungles just to get the correct triangulation. This book explains a huge amuont about why the world works as it does. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa | 7/24/2008

    " A very interesting history of the meter, science, and the theory of precision vs. accuracy.

    I found the science and math to be discussed in such a way that even a non-scientist like me could understand the theory behind these new discoveries. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ben | 7/22/2008

    " Alder relates the events of Delambre and Mechain as they attempt to measure the length of the French meridian during the revolution in order to fix the meter for science. It is an interesting tale of one's man quest for accuracy and his failure that turns to obsession. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 6/20/2008

    " When my husband bought this book I was like "400 pages about the meter?? You have got to be kidding me" but then I picked it up and couldn't put it down. A great story of not only the origins of the metric system but also about revolutionary France and the evolution of science. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bird | 1/30/2008

    " Both a history of the meter, a biography of Delambre and Mechain, and a description of France and the rest of Europe in upheaval in the 1790s. Read this book, dammit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Donna | 10/10/2007

    " This would have gotten 4 or even 5 stars, but the point at which the error occurs is sort of glossed over by the author. I was well past it before I realized it. "

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