# Historical Weight and Mass

## Abstract

Weight was an historical, base measurement unit representing the apparent “heaviness” of a physical object under the influence of gravity. The concept of mass developed somewhat later. For practical, daily applications in a terrestrial frame of reference, weight can be converted to mass with small error. Weight is normally what is measured by available devices, such as balances and weighing scales. The “operational weight” measured this way is close to the actual weight, for normal purposes. Weight standards have evolved from rough standards based on rocks, through standards based on the weights of various grains, to a standard based on the International Prototype Kilogram of mass. This is the only base unit of measurement that still uses a physical artifact as the international standard. The methods of measurement for weight and mass are discussed in this chapter, along with their sources and typical magnitudes of errors. There is an extensive listing of conversion factors for historical units to modern volume units provided for various locales and eras in world history.

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