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Measurement is a fundamental concept that underpins almost every aspect of the modern world. It is central to the sciences, social sciences, medicine, and economics, but it affects everyday life. We measure everything – from the distance of far-off galaxies to the temperature of the air, levels of risk, political majorities, taxes, blood pressure, IQ, and weight. The history of measurement goes back to the ancient world, and its story has been one of gradual standardization. Today there are different types of measurement, levels of accuracy, and systems of units, applied in different contexts. Measurement involves notions of variability, accuracy, reliability, and error, and challenges such as the measurement of extreme values.
In this Very Short Introduction, David Hand explains the common mathematical framework underlying all measurement, the main approaches to measurement, and the challenges involved. Following a brief historical account of measurement, he discusses measurement as used in the physical sciences and engineering, the life sciences and medicine, the social and behavioural sciences, economics, business, and public policy.
1: A brief history
2: What is measurement?
3: Measurement in the physical sciences and engineering
4: Measurement in the life sciences, medicine, and health
5: Measurement in the behavioural sciences
6: Social sciences, economics, business, and public policy
7: And beyond
David Hand was Professor of Statistics at the Open University and then at Imperial, until 2012. He is now Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Senior Research Investigator. He has written 17 books, both academic and more popular. His books include Statistics: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2008), The Wellbeing of Nations (Wiley, 2014), and most recently, The Improbability Principle (Scientific American, 2014).