27 JANUARY 2001, Page 28

Weights of the world

From Mr Vivian Linacre Sir: Ross Clark (Imperial madness', 20 January) has already secured this year's 'PHIB' (Perverting History to Impose Bureaucracy') award for his suggestion that our system of customary weights and measures helped to destroy the British car industry, in view of the fact that its decline coincided precisely with the introduction of metrication.

The pioneering and mass production of motor transport both here and in the USA — where Henry Ford invented the assembly line — were based on imperial measures. So was the industrial revolution a century earlier, which made Britain the first world superpower. More recently, too, the 'inch-pound' system enabled man to reach the Moon. The flexibility of imperial — with its ease of factorising and visualising — always encouraged engineering ingenuity, and its replacement by the rigid abstractions of metric was a fatal blow to so many industries that depend on a combination of design flair and mechanical innovation.

This collapse was hastened by the dumbing-down of education, induced in no small measure (literally) by metrication, which has produced generations of zombies who are no longer capable of mental arithmetic or working in fractions. Mr Clark is evidently unaware that the whole of modern technology depends on computer science that is based on binary arithmetic, which is compatible with imperial measures but alien to decimals. The measurement of time and music — as well as of the Earth by latitude and longitude — are consistent with traditional measures, which are as old as the earliest civilisation, in contrast to this wretched relic of the French Revolution that is now being inflicted upon us.

His trivialisation of the Steven Thoburn prosecution does your readers a disservice. The issue being decided is not, as he implies, small potatoes, although that's what he will be served if he persists with his suggestion of buying vegetables by number rather than by weight.

Incidentally, £70 was not, as he says, the price per head of tickets for the Sunderland fund-raising dinner but the price per pair. Metricksters cannot even count up to two.

Vivian Linacre

Director, British Weights & Measures Association, Edinburgh