Dear Dr. Boli: I know that the centigrade or “Celsius” scale of temperature measures from 0 at the freezing point to 100 at the boiling point of water. But what does the Fahrenheit scale measure? It seems queer that the freezing point of water is at 32 and the boiling point is at 212. What kind of scale is that? Why didn’t Fahrenheit use a simple decimal scale? —Sincerely, Lambert Cirrus, Chief Meteorologist, Dumont Ten O’Clock News.
Dear Sir: The Fahrenheit scale of temperature was originally designed to measure and predict the behavior of Mrs. Fahrenheit. Concordia Fahrenheit was a hardy soul and not averse to bundling up in the winter, but there was a certain temperature below which, no matter how many layers of coats, sweaters, gloves, and boots she wore, she became simply impossible to live with. This point Dr. Fahrenheit marked as 0 on his scale. Likewise, in the summer, she was not bothered much by moderate heat, but there was a point beyond which she could not be pushed, and excessively hot weather made her short-tempered and cross. Dr. Fahrenheit marked the point at which this transition occurred as 100. Between these two extremes, Mrs. Fahrenheit was as sweet-tempered a companion as any husband could wish for, but above or below that range the change in her mood was sudden and violent. Thus you can see that Dr. Fahrenheit did in fact use a centigrade scale to measure temperature, but very reasonably decided to refer it to something of far more moment to him personally than the exceedingly dull changes in the state of water.