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    Re: Point Venus, August 1773
    From: Fred Hebard
    Date: 2007 May 2, 22:46 -0400

    On May 2, 2007, at 10:05 PM, Frank Reed wrote:
    > I also notice something here that seems to be common from this
    > period --a
    > lack of understanding of significant digits. Or perhaps more
    > likely, no
    > means to distinguish varying levels of significance. So, for example,
    > calculations for altitude corrections were often worked out to down
    > to the
    > second of arc when the observer surely knew that the observations
    > were only
    > accurate to the nearest minute of arc.
    The book, "The Measure of All Things," by Ken Alder, discusses this
    at length.  See especially pages 304-308.  Legendre addressed
    discrepancies in arcs measured at various latitudes using least
    squares, which he invented independently of Gauss.  See the book for
    more detail.  The discrepancies had led, essentially, to the death of
    one of the fellows performing the measurements.
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