Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Origin of the English Mile

  In Faye's Origin of the English Mile it is claimed that Ptolemy confused the Greek foot with the royal or Phileterian foot of Egypt and that led to a reduced size for the English mile. He talks about a 1/6th error but that can also be found in Eratothenes' estimate for the size of the Earth.

It's easy to come up with fractions like this and difficult to assign much credence to them. In the discussion of the Phileterian foot above there is mention of a geometrical foot being commented on by De Morgan who appears to be trivializing the idea. This could also be anti-Roman bias and a move in favor of a clean slate on the size of the Earth.

  The Smithsonian and the American government were also aware of the paper on the origin of the English mile.

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