Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Stature of Men



Our Indian Comes First, and the White Citizen of the United States Is Next. Opinions of Men Who Have Studied the Subject of Changes In Stature.

Professor Donath, a naturalist of Budapest, makes the startling announcement to the scientific world that the standard of man's stature is rapidly deteriorating. After examining the recruiting statistics of those European countries in which enlistment in the army is compulsory to every male citizen he has found that during the past decade there has been a surprising increase in the proportion of men unqualified for active service on account of shortness of stature. The number of those rejected last year from the Austro-Hungarian army was found to be 76 per cent more in proportion than those refused entrance ten years ago. Within the last ten years the proportion of those unqualified in Italy has risen from 7 to 23 per cent. In Germany, during the same space, although the required standard has lately been lowered, the rejected class has gone up from 7 to 16 per cent, and within 16 years the proportion of those refused service in the French army on the same grounds has been raised from 6 to 13 per cent. Statistics from Russia have not as yet been received, but of all the other countries included in Professor Donath's list Switzerland alone was found to be free from this deterioration in the height of her average man.

Dr. Theodore Gill, when asked at the Smithsonian whether he was startled by Professor Donath's examination, expressed his opinion that man is now at the maximum in the scale of health and stature. Various theories, he says, have been promulgated by anthropologists trying to prove that man's prehistoric ancestors were races of giants, and that the human race has been on the gradual decrease ever since, but he has no respect for such doctrines. As proof of this, he says, most of the ancient armor worn by the best physical types of men many centuries ago is too small and to short for the average man of today.

Professor W. J. McGee, the ethnologist, says that Americans need have no fear that any such condition may result from their mental vigor. When Herbert Spencer visited this country, he prophesied that our nation would soon develop into a stunted, unhealthy race, because in their struggle for intellectual and commercial superiority our citizens were burning the candle at both ends, but since this prophecy was made the census statistics have continued year by year to prove that we are the tallest and healthiest nation on the globe. A decrease in man's stature, the professor continued, would be brought about by improper nutrition or neglect of exercise. As an example of the effects of insufficient food, the Indian tribes which have existed for centuries in our arid regions are much thinner and shorter in stature than those whose fathers enjoyed the abundant game of the prairie.

Dr. Fletcher, the anatomist of the United States Army Medical museum, to whom the writer is also indebted, when asked to give his opinion as to the stature of the American people, referred to the anthropometric statistics of the provost marshal general's office, issued in 1875. These statistics were compiled with Dr. Fletcher's aid from the measurements of our soldiers during the late war. They comprise the latest census of the kind which has been taken in the country. In the comparative table of stature, arranged according to nationalities, the United States Indian was found to stand higher than any of the other races of the world. His average height was given as 67.93 inches. The white citizen of the United States comes next, with an average stature of 67.67 inches. The United States negro ranks fourteenth in the scale, and of all the countries of the world considered the Portuguese were found to be the shortest, averaging only 65.43 inches. The total mean height of man was 67.3 inches.

In the table giving the relative heights of United States soldiers those from Kentucky ranked first, with an average height of 68.67 inches, Kansas came second, and Connecticut was last, with an average of 66.59 inches. As compared with tables completed ten years before the close of the war these statistics showed an increase of average height in each one of the states, without exception.

It has always been proverbial among anatomists that blond nations are greater in stature than their darker neighbors. This is not due to the difference in the pigment of the complexion or the hair, but to the geological position of the blond races. They are characteristic of the north, and on account of the lower degree of temperature are induced to take more exercise, which throws them more in the open air. At the top of the list of the countries, arranged in order of stature, the first seven, after the United States white men, are Norway, Scotland, British America, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark and Holland, all northern nations.

The American negro further illustrates that the poorer races are shorter in stature than the richer occupying the same territory. The impoverished races generally complete their growth more rapidly than the more luxurious, who continue to increase gradually in bone and muscle until a much later period in life. Most men are still growing in height until they are over 25 years old, and the thorax, or framework about the chest, usually continues to expand until the thirtieth year.

The western man of the United States is generally superior to the eastern man in height. This is attributed to the former's enjoyment of freer air and a greater abundance of food at the time the west was first opened. It has also been suggested that this is due to the fact that only the best physical specimens dared to penetrate the wild plains in the days of the pioneers. — Washington Cor. Boston Transcript.

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