Oliver “Ollie” Smoot didn’t expect to become a lasting legend when he came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but that all changed the night his fraternity used his body to measure a bridge .
A younger Ollie was chosen by Lambda Chi Alpha to become a measurement painted on Harvard Bridge decades ago. Now the “smoot” is an official measurement and a beloved part of the university’s history.
Pedestrians crossing the bridge will still see smoot markers painted along the sidewalk as they cross the Charles River. Many may not know that a smoot is 5 feet and 7 inches (plus an ear) - the exact height of Ollie’s body.
Ollie Smoot, now retired, came onto Boston Decoded to explain the origin of the smoot, along with some little-known secrets behind this made-up measurement. You might want to sit down for the origin of the name “Smoot” because it is a bit shocking.
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We also caught up with Lambda Chi Alpha alumni who have help keep the lines repainted year after year. There is more to the story as the fraternity works to redeem itself after it was suspended from the MIT campus.
Rob Michaelson also measures a bunch of Boston things in smoots, but then goes off the rails and tries to measure the distance to the moon in smoots. Oh, and he somehow manages to give his son Max a cameo as the official cutest smoot measurement subject. Typical Rob.