John Neal, British metrologist and researcher, is the author of All Done With Mirrors, Measuring the Megaliths and The Structure of Metrology. Building on the work of John Michell and others, John Neal has revealed ancient metrology as a coherent system of measure. Professor Michael Vickers, of the Ashmolean Museum and Jesus College, Oxford, called these findings “a major contribution to the history of science” in his review for Nature in 2001.
Born in 1941, John Neal studied agriculture and became fascinated with the old systems of measure still in everyday use in post-war Britain. His early interest in archaeology led him to read an account of the excavations at Woodhenge that claimed to have found a consistent unit of measure not unlike the English foot. This was a turning point for young John Neal, who from then on held ancient peoples in high regard.
Another turning point came years later when he met John Michell during the ‘acid revolution’ of 1967. John Neal and John Michell became life-long friends and collaborators, bouncing numbers back and forth endlessly when together, and continuing along parallel lines of thought even when separated over long distances and periods of time.
A crucial breakthrough was the 1981 publication of Ancient Metrology by John Michell. This short book for the first time precisely identified the lengths of certain units of measure and elaborated the reasons for their differences. It explains how metrology is basic to understanding archaeology and ancient science: “A tradition which has been accredited by many learned men over the centuries is that the ancients encoded their knowledge of the world in the dimensions of their sacred monuments. If that is so, any attempt to elicit that knowledge must be preceded by the study of ancient metrology.”
In 2000, after decades of research, John Neal produced his major work on ancient metrology, All Done With Mirrors, which reveals ancient metrology as a coherent system of measure based on fractional variations of what came to be called the English foot.