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By any measure, a successful return

Sun., Oct. 5, 2008, midnight

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The father of a measurement known as the “Smoot” returned Saturday to be honored at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the school where he and his fraternity brothers invented it 50 years ago.

Oliver Smoot was the shortest pledge in the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity in 1958 when its members decided to lay him on the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. After discovering Smoot measured 5 feet 7, they marked the bridge in those increments, with an eventually exhausted Smoot getting up and down for each new measurement.

They soon determined the bridge was 364.4 Smoots long.

Today,’s calculator function can convert any measurement into Smoots.

The original Smoot, who later became chairman of the American National Standards Institute, spoke Saturday at “Smoot Celebration Day” at MIT and received a plaque. The plaque will be installed on the bridge this year.

“This plaque will brighten the lives of windblown pedestrians,” MIT President Susan Hockfield said during the presentation.


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