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What's the reason we agreed to setting the number of degrees of a full circle to 360? Does that make any more sense than 100, 1000 or any other number? Is there any logic involved in that particular number?

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migrated from Mar 25 '13 at 9:13

This question came from our site for active researchers, academics and students of physics.

marked as duplicate by Rahul, Willie Wong Mar 25 '13 at 9:19

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Speculation about why the degree was chosen as it was can be found here. – Asad Saeeduddin Mar 25 '13 at 8:54
I think you can probably blame the Babylonians, who loved to count in base 60, but this should probably be moved to the maths site. You're more likely to find a math history expert there. :) – Michael Brown Mar 25 '13 at 8:54
Possible duplicate: – Qmechanic Mar 25 '13 at 9:16
up vote 8 down vote accepted

As it has been replied here - on Wonder Quest

The Sumerians watched the Sun, Moon, and the five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), primarily for omens. They did not try to understand the motions physically. They did, however, notice the circular track of the Sun's annual path across the sky and knew that it took about 360 days to complete one year's circuit. Consequently, they divided the circular path into 360 degrees to track each day's passage of the Sun's whole journey. This probably happened about 2400 BC.

That's how we got a 360 degree circle. Around 1500 BC, Egyptians divided the day into 24 hours, though the hours varied with the seasons originally. Greek astronomers made the hours equal. About 300 to 100 BC, the Babylonians subdivided the hour into base-60 fractions: 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute. The base 60 of their number system lives on in our time and angle divisions.

An 100-degree circle makes sense for base 10 people like ourselves. But the base-60 Babylonians came up with 360 degrees and we cling to their ways-4,400 years later.

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