Quotations about Measurement

Weights, Measures and the French Revolution

"The unification of weights and measures of the Year III [of the French Revolution, Germinal 18] (April 7, 1795) climaxed the efforts of a millennium (Charlemagne had sought it), but the system, in spite of its exportation by Napoleon's armies, is still not universal. ... Out of the old regime's hodgepodge of administrations, jurisdictions, codes, standards of measure, and religious beliefs, the thinkers of the Enlightenment and neoclassical school sought to bring order and rationality. Different as these movements were, they were inspired by the same geometric spirit that inspired the Enlightenment itself. As [Alexis de] Tocqueville rightly showed, this was centralization, and though the Revolution in some instances brought it to completion (as with weights and measures), the origins must be traced back to the old regime. Like the Enlightenment, it may have helped cause the Revolution. More certainly it revealed a state of mind and set of goals that made the Revolution possible. One writer during the Revolution felt it was no exaggeration to speak of sixty thousand measures of weight in France before 1789. For surfaces there were the pouce, the pied, the are, the aune, the perche, the verge, the arpent, and the hectare, with their many regional variants. Eighteenth-century authors such as Alexis-Jean-Pierre Paucton felt that the diversity sprang from feudalism, for seigneurs had "low justice" over weights and measures, kept the standards in their possession, and refused to allow them to be checked by other standards. "The seigneurial monopoly of weights and measures," writes their historian, "coexisting with a rente [unearned income] in kind [i.e., agricultural produce] easily caused permanent conflicts; it created a situation propitious for the falsification of standards by the seigneurs and for the distrust, justified or not, of the peasants." The old weights and measures upheld the old regime. A common demand of the cahiers de dolénces [statements of grievances] of 1789 was thus to unify weights and measures - not to avoid paying feudal dues but to assure an honest amount payable. The rallying cry: "un roi, une loi, un poids, et une mesure" (one king, one law, one weight, and one measure) was a slogan of equality and centralization, the chief mark of modern French history, one that the monarchy commenced and the Revolution furthered."

Emmet Kennedy (1989) A Cultural History of the French Revolution. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press. p. 77-8. [emphasis added.]


"Weigh and Pay". The rule of the port of London, ca. 1778.
Adam Smith (1789) The Wealth of the Nations.


"A measurement is not an absolute thing, but only relates one entity to another."
H.T. Pledge (1966) Science since 1500. 2nd Edn. London: HMSO. p. 296.


Unidimensionality as Homogeneity

In his address to the Rasch Measurement SIG in Chicago (AERA, 1997), John Keeves said:
"Fulfillment of the requirement of unidimensionality is a matter of degree not just a matter of kind," as Bejar (1983, p.31) has pointed out: "... unidimensionality does not imply that performance on the items is due to a single psychological process. In fact, a variety of psychological processes are involved in the act of responding to a set of items. However, as long as they function in unison - that is, performance on each item is affected by the same process and in the same form - unidimensionality will hold."

Bejar, Isaac I. (1983). Achievement testing: recent advances. Beverly Hills: SAGE Publications.
Courtesy of Trevor Bond, David Curtis and John Keeves


"By drawing a picture of it, he made it possible for us to see what it is.... We all understand pictures."
Charles E. Jefferson, 1925


"Science does not mean an isolated, finished truth. It means always finding a new puzzle to replace the old, sometimes to the destruction of workers who have too far specialized in their technique."
H.T. Pledge (1966) Science since 1500. 2nd Edn. London: HMSO. p. 322.


"To be original is to discover the commonplace of a thousand years - to face at first the sneer that no one would have thought of it, and at last the indifference because any one would."
Gerald Stanley Lee, 1896, "The Shadow Christ"


Statistics is entering a period of swift advance, ... During such a period, no one is an expert. Anyone now inclined to explore statistical theory will find himself on the ground floor with many exciting stairways to himself. Those of you who use statistics must now, to an unusual extent, rely on your own good sense and understanding, not in rules, magic, or "powerful new tools."
Leonard "Jimmie" Savage (1962) Bayesian Statistics. In R. E. Machol & P. Gray (Eds.) Recent Developments in Information and Decision Processes. New York: Macmillan.


"If every general contractor defined a foot as the length of his own foot, our buildings and the construction industry in general would be in a state of disarray. Yet that is precisely what we have done in health care. Every hospital, practice and specialty society has traditionally measured key processes of healthcare in unique and differing ways."
Gene Beed, M.D., 1996, at a HEDIS conference.
Courtesy of Ida Androwich


"The way you measure is more important than what you measure."
Art Gust, Audio Equipment Developer, CBS Corp.

This is because bad measures are worse than useless, they are misleading. In the 1930's, a German scientist mismeasured the absorption properties of graphite. The result was that Germany based its atomic research on scarce "heavy" water, but in the USA, Fermi used a "pile" of carbon blocks.


Trudy Mallinson: Construct Map (2001)



Respectful Testing is a Conversation

"Respectful may seem like an odd word to use in talking about quizzes, tests, exams, grades, and the like, but it is the most apt word with which to initiate the rethinking of our deep-seated habits about testing. The assessor either respects or disrespects the student by the manner in which the relationship is conducted. It is respectful, for example, to be open with people about your intent and methods; a steady dose of secure tests must then be disrespectful and off-putting. It is respectful to allow people to explain themselves when we think that they have erred or when we do not understand their answer. Tests that provide no opportunity for students to supply a rationale for answers reveal that what they think and why they think it is unimportant. It is respectful to give people timely, accurate, and helpful feedback on their effect, yet most tests provide the student with nothing more than a score - and often weeks later. It is respectful to give people ample opportunity to practice, refine, and master a task that we wish them to do; yet secure, one-shot tests prevent the efficacy that comes from cycles of model => practice => feedback => refine."

"The assessment relationship can thus range from being one of complete mutual respect - through on-going responsiveness, flexibility, patience, and a capacity for surprise in our questioning and follow-up - to one in which the student is only tested (and is thus treated as an object), through the imposition of tasks and procedures that provide the student (and teacher, in the case of externally designed tests) with no opportunity to enter the conversation."

Excerpted from Grant P. Wiggins (1993) Assessing Student Performance: Exploring the Purpose and Limits of Testing. San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.


Quotations about Measurement. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2001, 15:1 p.793


Please help with Standard Dataset 4: Andrich Rating Scale Model



Rasch Publications
Rasch Measurement Transactions (free, online) Rasch Measurement research papers (free, online) Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, Georg Rasch Applying the Rasch Model 3rd. Ed., Bond & Fox Best Test Design, Wright & Stone
Rating Scale Analysis, Wright & Masters Introduction to Rasch Measurement, E. Smith & R. Smith Introduction to Many-Facet Rasch Measurement, Thomas Eckes Invariant Measurement: Using Rasch Models in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, George Engelhard, Jr. Statistical Analyses for Language Testers, Rita Green
Rasch Models: Foundations, Recent Developments, and Applications, Fischer & Molenaar Journal of Applied Measurement Rasch models for measurement, David Andrich Constructing Measures, Mark Wilson Rasch Analysis in the Human Sciences, Boone, Stave, Yale
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