Tuesday, July 28, 2015

By a Mile

Have you ever wondered why a mile has such an odd number of feet--5,280 feet? The answer is it didn't start that way but gained some length in translation. 

To the Romans, a mile was 1,000 paces by a soldier or 5,000 feet. Now that is a nice round number that is easy to remember. The word mile comes from the Latin word for thousand.

The English mile ended up longer because of changes made to the length of rods, used to measure distances by surveyors, by Henry VIII in order to increase taxes. Lots of surveying took place in England after Henry VIII seized the lands of the Catholic church and sold them off. The English mile became equivalent to 8 furlongs, a rather English measure of distance equal to the length of furrow a horse could plow before needing to rest, with 40 rods per furlong, and 16.5 feet per rod, making the mile equal to the unlikely less than round number of 5,280 feet.

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