• The Measure of All Things

  • The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World
  • By: Ken Alder
  • Narrated by: Byron Jennings
  • Length: 6 hrs and 10 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-04-02
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.7 (50 ratings)

Regular price: $21.27

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Publisher's Summary

Amid 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 200-year-old secret. The meter, it turns out, is in error. One of the two astronomers, Pierre-François-André Méchain, made contradictory measurements from Barcelona and, in a panic, covered up the discrepancy. The guilty 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.
©2002 Ken Alder, All Rights Reserved (P)2002 Simon & Schuster Inc., All Rights Reserved, AUDIOWORKS Is an Imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Reading much like a historical thriller...[this] is a fascinating and well-written work." (Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Thomas on 04-25-03


I've read a number of non-fiction narratives. This one is very average. The subject matter is difficult to get very excited about. It may be the abridgement that has detracted from the work of the author. Many times it is the side stories and facts that I find most fascinating. Those stories are not in this recording. It is like the difference between a newspaper account and being at an event. I picked up a copy of the book at work one day and started reading through it. All of the little stories I found enlightening were left out of the abridged version. This book does a good job of dealing with the primary storyline involving the measurement of the earth to determine the size of the meter. Beyond that, I found the narrative not very interesting.

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4 of 6 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Per Schelde on 03-22-18

Moronic accents

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No.l The book is ok, but the performance by Byron Jennings is dismal.

Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

No, in a sense not technical enough. But that wasn't the problem.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Byron Jennings?

Anyone who doesn't have the moronic idea that all foreigners have an accent, even though the author doesn't indicate an accent. And it doesn't matter if it's a French or a Spanish person: they're all assigned the same generic accent. Neither fowl nor fish and certainly not French. And since Jennings obviously doesn't speak French, all French names and terms are mispronounced to the point where you have no idea how the word is written. Someone should have whispered in the ear of Jennings that all French words have the stress on the last syllable.

Do you think The Measure of All Things needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Maybe it would help with a book explaining the concepts involved.

Any additional comments?

No. The book is what it is. Not exciting, but interesting.

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