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The Britannica Guide to Numbers and Measurement


Numbers have frequently been called a universal language for their ability to transmit information across cultures. The scoreboard at an Olympic basketball game, for example, needs no translation no matter the number of languages spoken by the fans. When asked “What time is it?” in a foreign city, all a tourist must do is hold up her watch to provide the answer. For everything from sports to shopping to computer cryptography, numbers are fundamental to everyday life today.

This book offers an overview of the development of numbers, their expression in mathematics and measurement, and profiles of visionaries who saw order amidst the numbers.

Like language, numbers arose along with human civilization, and in turn helped civilization rise. Their use developed from people’s desires to count up their chickens and other important possessions and, perhaps, measure their humble dwelling. Increasing trade and commerce helped drive the need for numbers as people settled in towns and cities. At first, people most likely scratched tallies on stones or put simple notches on a stick to count important objects. But soon, merchants, traders, and tax collectors in every budding civilization required better ways to manage their accounts. In a huge conceptual shift, numbers gradually evolved from concrete tools for counting and measuring to become abstract ideas in their own right. This shift in thinking began to appear in discrete notations for the numbers themselves.



Chapter 1: Numbers

Numerals and Numeral Systems


Number Theory

Set Theory

Chapter 2: Great Arithmeticians and Number Theorists

Chapter 3: Numerical Terms and Concepts

Chapter 4: Measurements

Measurement Systems

Measurement Instruments and Systems

Measurement Theory

Chapter 5: Measurement Pioneers

Chapter 6: Measurement Terms and Concepts




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