One of the mysteries of the Industrial Revolution is why it should have occurred that Britain, closely followed by America, shot ahead of the rest of the world in Engineering, in spite of certain disadvantages, e.g. when it was all starting, engineering education was well-established in France and virtually non-existent in Britain. France ought to have been the engineering leader, but was not. I believe it was the use of feet and inches that gave us the small advantage that got us away to a good start. They are suitable sized units for doing engineering, and the 12″ relation is of tremendous advantage in making scale drawings, an indispensible part of mechanical engineering. So here in Britain (and in the USA as soon as it was sufficiently industrialised) there was a slightly easier channel for ideas to pass from brain to reality. And now some fools are trying to close that channel.
The present units have a great advantage in their distinctive names. The use of a single name for the unit of mass, or length, or whatever, with prefixes to denote multiples and fractions, is a source of confusion, and we ought to be aware of this in making up names for dozenal units. (J.D.Richard)
Modular patterns, whereby numbers reveal their shapes, has considerable impact on pupils with a low interest in the subject. The Dozen Scale, forming as it does the natural divisions of the circle, is admirably suited to this purpose. (D.Hammond)
Inflation has made a sorry mess of our currency. Whether you blame large wage-increases or the ever-increasing price of oil and imports, or just the floating pound, the value of our currency unit has fallen tremendously. One friend of mine says he thinks of £1 as one shilling; then the 10p coin approximates to the old ld in value, and prices seem to slide back into a more familiar perspective.
In any case the coins are far too large. The choice of £1 as the larger unit made the smaller unit (1p) too large, and this tended to contribute to inflation, and even though the half-pee is still around fewer and fewer people are taking it seriously. The present bronze coins conld be replaced by versions in aluminium, enabling us to scale down the 5p and 10p to (perhaps) nickel-brass coins with a 50p a copper-nickel coin of shilling size. This would pave the way for coins of face-value greater than 50p; and if inflation is not calmed soon I for one forsee the appearance of the aluminium pound...
By the time inflation is halted I expect that we will have bronze 5p and 10p pieces, with copper-nickel 50p, £1 and £5 coins, taking 5p as a new penny (1d) and the 10p as 2d, all we would need would be the 3d, 6d, ls, 2s and (a new coin) 6s to replace banknotes and restore the currency to a (familiar) dozenal pattern.
The shilling, with its divisions into 3d, 6d, 9d and 4d, 8d, provided more stopping-points against price-rises than does the decimal £p system we now suffer. (S.Ferguson)
December 2004 : Footnote:
The above was written long before the introduction of the brass £1 coin and the next unit, the £2 piece. The rest of the coins - apart from the 1p and 2p - have been reduced in size, but so far have not been reduced to being minted in some inferior metal, since inflation has been slowed down.
But the change to a decimal pound has in effect produced the £/mil system suggested in the twenties, with the 1p as the mil and the £10 note as the pound. Just as the franc had 100 centimes where our shilling had twelve pence, now our pound with its 100p mimics that franc and other Continental currencies.
Apart from some items which were not around when I was young (e.g. electronic calculators) most cost as much in pounds now as they did in shillings then. (S.Ferguson)