Every once in a while I notice a story about metrology, or the science of measurement, that reminds me how many of our concepts about the world are carefully constructed and contingent.
A few months ago I asked just how long ago the civil war was after hearing a story about a book stolen during the civil war and just recently returned. On the scale of a human life or generation the civil war is very recent history and yet America seems to have completely buried it in the past.
I heard a story on All Things Considered this afternoon about a book that was returned to Washington and Lee University in Virginia, 145 years after it was stolen. Let’s see 2009-145 = 1864. That’s nearing the end of the American Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg took place July 1-3 of 1863. The South surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Washington and Lee University is located in Lexington, VA near the western border of Virginia.