In Praise of Measurement

This week we celebrate two pioneers who advanced the science of measurement.

French astronomer Jean Picard was born on July 21, 1620.  He was the first person to accurately measure the size of the Earth.  (He also inspired the name of a character in television’s “Star Trek.”)

Picard constructed 13 triangles that stretched from Paris to Amiens, then used math and triangulation to determine that one degree of latitude measured 110.46 km.  Subsequently, he calculated that the radius of the entire Earth should be 6,328.9 km.  This figure is within 0.44 percent of the actual size of our planet.  Not bad, considering that Picard performed his calculation back in 1670!

July 21 is also the birthday of French chemist Henri Regnault, who was born on July 21, 1810.  Regnault performed a systematic study of the thermal properties of gases.  He demonstrated that heated gases do not all expand at the same rate, disproving the accuracy of Boyle’s Law.  Sadly, Regnault’s instruments and books were all destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War, leaving him a broken man at the end of his life.

Agilent has a 50-year-plus reputation as the world leader in measurement instrumentation.  We routinely measure the mass of molecular ions to one part per million.  In order to distinguish a pesticide in a food sample, our mass spectrometers can determine the mass of a molecule to six significant digits.

Our GC/MSD system can detect trace levels of compounds at levels 10 times lower than any other instrument in its class.  Our High Sensitivity DNA Analysis Kits can analyze samples of 100 picograms in a microliter.  (A picogram is one trillionth of a gram, the amount of DNA in a single human cell.  A microliter is one millionth of a liter.)

But Agilent does more than just measure.  Our software and informatics help customers turn their measurement data into actionable knowledge.  Our workflow solutions enable laboratories to get the definitive answers they need.  Our insights lead to customer outcomes.


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