A foot (abbreviation ” ft ”) is a unit of length in the usual and imperial measurement systems of the United States. The international agreement defined both units equivalent to 12 inches, and in both systems, one foot is equal to 12 inches and a courtyard is composed of 3ft.

History of foot measurement

Historically the “foot” was part of several units of the measurement system that included the English, French, Chinese, Roman and Greek systems. The length of a foot varied from place to place and was divided into 16 or 12-inch numbers. The only industrialized country that uses the international foot instead of meters is the United States.

Previously, the basis of the measurement was determined by the foot of a human being. In fact, the length of a white male’s foot is about 15.3% of its height, which means that the foot of a 5ft 3in tall man is about 9.65 inches long. These figures varied over time, thus suggesting that the “foot” unit was synonymous with a true human shoe. Archaeologists suggest that the Mesopotamians, Indians and Egyptians used cubits while the Greeks and Romans used one foot. For the Egyptians, the digits 16 or the palms 4 were equal to one foot. During the Bronze Age, most of the cities of the Indus used a foot that was approximately 13.2 inches.

First use of the 12-Inch foot

The typical Roman foot was approximately 11.64 inches, which represents about 97% of the measurements used today, but in the provinces people used the Black Drusus foot (which was about 13.15 long). Initially, the Romans divided their foot into 16 figures, but later divided it into 12 *ounces* (which in English means ounce or inch). Jacob Koebel described the process of verifying a foot during the 16th century.

July 1959, an international pounding and construction site agreement, defined the international foot equivalent to 12 inches which were 1.7ppm (parts per million) shorter than the original UK definition and 2ppm shorter than the United States. In the United States, a 12-inch foot was estimated with an inch defined by the order 1893 Mendenhall which indicated that a meter is equal to 39.37 inches.

Why 12 instead of 10?

12 is a standard number and is used in the 12 hour, there are 12 months in a year and 12 inches in a foot. But why use 12 instead of 10?

Historically, not all nations had a 12 o’clock; in fact, the Egyptians were the only ones with 12 o’clock at night, 2 hours for twilight and 10 hours representing the day. Therefore, the combination of the day of the hour 10 and the hour 2 for the twilight is equivalent to the hours of night and day.

There are numerous speculations as to why they counted with the base of twelve and not with 10 and this has influenced different cultures over time. One of the schools of thought states that our fingers have three joints and if you count the joints using our thumbs, we have twelve joints in both hands and this is their count.

The Babylonians developed a counting system known as the Sexagesimal system with a base of 60. The Sexagesimal system is used in time counting and has factors 12. Furthermore mathematically 12 has more factors and is easier to subdivide than 10. The system of Count 12 was adopted by many cultures including the Romans who introduced the idea of twelve inches in one foot.