> Date:         Thu, 29 Nov 2001 21:33:50 -0600
> From: Eric Christopherson <[log in to unmask]>
> On Thu, Nov 29, 2001 at 10:39:31AM -0500, Muke Tever wrote:
> > As for the symbol attached, it probably doesn't count separating angle and
> > temperature degrees as it's the same symbol ;p

Yes --- and it's actually a superscript zero. At some point in the
late middle ages, European scholars started doing astronomical
calculations in the Babylonian base-60 system --- but to keep track of
how many divisors of 60 each number group represented, they put little
superscript roman numerals on them, using the newly introduced zero
for the units place. (The number groups themselves were written in
Arabic (so-called) numerals).

So 0 divisors (units) were degrees : 1, 1 divisor (1/60's) were
minutes: 1', 2 divisors (1/3600's) were seconds: 1", and so on. (The
example I saw quoted had 5 or 6 base-60 groups; modern usage goes to
decimal fractions of seconds instead).

It's the same principle that brings us ' for feet and " for inches.

When temperature scales were defined using degrees, a few hundred
years later, they just took over the symbol from its angular sense.

Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <[log in to unmask]> (Humour NOT marked)