-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The Smoot can be found on Google Earth and Google Calculator. It’s a unit of distance named after Oliver R. Smoot, the five-foot-seven-inch Chairman of the American National Standards Institute and President of the International Organization for Standardization.
In 1958 Smoot was a pledge for the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at MIT. As part of their initiation, a group of pledges was tasked with measuring the length of Harvard Bridge using one of their members as a ruler. Smoot, the shortest at 5 feet 7 inches, was chosen to make the task more arduous.
The measurement was performed at night with Smoot lying down, the position of his head marked, and then Smoot would get up, move one smoot and lie down again. After a hundred times or so, he became tired and they just dragged him to the next position.
The strange marking on the bridge caught the people’s fancy and each year Lambda Chi Alpha pledges repainted the original markings.
As MIT graduates have found jobs throughout industry, smoots are turning up in a lot of unusual places. Type “1 mile in smoots” into Google’s search bar and you get “1 mile = 945.671642 smoots.”