Mathematics Throughout History

Development Ofweights and Measures

What is the historical significance of the barleycorn in measurement?

The barleycorn (just a grain of barley) definitely had a significant historical role in determining the length of an inch and the English foot measurement (for more about the inch and foot, see below). In addition, in traditional English law, the various pound weights all referred to multiples of the “grain”: A single barleycorn’s weight equaled a grain, and multiples of a grain were important in weight measurement. Thus, some researchers believe the lowly barleycorn was actually at the origin of both weight and distance units in the English system.


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