The History Of Weighing
The History Of Weighing

Since ancient Egyptian times, we humans have weighed objects and developed measuring
systems, and scales have been a part of our lives for thousands of years. They influence our
daily lives, we can weigh, make calculations or simply find out how much something weighs.
Over the decades, scales have become more modern and accurate, and their history is as
fascinating as it is important.

The Fascinating History of Weighing

Over 5000 years ago, the first balance was invented, a simple but efficient scale. In ancient
Egypt, the scale was used to make the trade in precious metals such as gold and silver not only
safer but also fairer. However, the scales had much more meaning than just being a weighing
tool back then. In Egyptian culture, the scales extended to religion; they were a symbol of life
after death. Ancient Egyptians believed that a scale would decide their fate after death. But
scales were not only used in ancient Egypt, they were also an important tool in other parts of the
world, such as China. The oldest Chinese scale was discovered on Mount Zuojiagong, it was
probably built between 300 and 400 BC and was (just like the Egyptian version) a balance
scale. Other, less expensive scales were also invented during this period, the Bismar scale is a
good example. Also called unequal-armed scales, these scales were less expensive but not
nearly as accurate as the more expensive ones. Thanks to their low price, these scales were
still popular among merchants. All these examples of early scales come from different parts of
the world, and yet they all have one thing in common: they are all scales. For a long time, this
remained the case, because the only scales that could determine weight were balances. But in
1770, this changed when a man named Richard Salter invented the spring scale. The spring
scale had one big advantage: you no longer needed weights to weigh an object. The scale
always needed a counterweight to measure the weight of an object. The heavier side of the
scale would sink down so that people could see if the object was heavier or lighter than the
counterweight. The spring scale, on the other hand, worked on a completely different system: it
did not require counterweights but worked with gravity. The spring is pushed down by the
earth's gravity when an object is placed on the scale. The further it sinks, the heavier the object.
This scale was revolutionary and so efficient and cheap that it is still widely used today.
More than 200 years after the invention of the spring scale, another scale fascinated the world:
the digital scale. This particular device can perform extremely precise calculations like no other
scale ever could before. It is not clear when the digital scale was invented, but it was first
patented in 1980.

German coin scale from the 18th century used to weigh and authenticate coins.

What are the types of scales?

There are many scales, from simple scales to very accurate digital scales. From platform scales
to truck scales, the range is endless. Even in a category like balance scales for example there
are many variations. Balances can be divided into six main categories: Microbalance,
Mechanical Balance, Analytical Balance, Torsion Balance, Pendulum Balance and last but not
least, the Roberval Balance. They are all similar to each other, yet very different. Microbalance
and torsion balance can make very precise measurements, while mechanical balances are not
quite as accurate. Highly accurate measuring instruments are also important for the jewelry and gemstone industry: Digital gold scales are used to weigh jewelry, digital gemstone scales are used to weigh and describe colored gemstones and diamonds.

A very common type of scale is the hydraulic or crane scale. It is usually used for lifting very
heavy weights, for example in the construction industry. Another type of scale is the strain
gauge scale, basically a digital version of the spring scale, which like the crane scale is often used for lifting very heavy weights. It was invented in 1938. As the name suggests, strain gauge
scales measure not the weight of an object, but its strain and mass, in other words, how much
tension a piece of metal has, for example.

Scales have not only changed our everyday lives, but they have also provided extreme
accuracy for researchers. They have been around for thousands of years and are still very
important today.