Full text: papers communicated to the first International Eugenics Congress held at the University of London, July 24th to 30th, 1912

S. Hansen.Biology and Eugenics.23 
ON THE INCREASE OF STATURE IN CERTAIN EUROPEAN 
POPULATIONS. 
By Soren Hansen, M.D., 
Director of the Danish Anthropological Survey, Copenhagen. 
If Eugenics is the study of agencies under social control that may 
improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, either physic­ 
ally or mentally, it must be one of the first objects of Eugenics to take 
account of the agencies, under social control or not, that have already 
improved or impaired the racial qualities of the present generation. In 
many European populations the most obvious racial quality of all, the 
stature, has in the last fifty years or more undergone a very sensible im­ 
provement, having increased by as much as five centimetres, and even more. 
This improvement is generally ascribed simply to an improvement of the 
hygienic and economic conditions, but the question is intricate. The various 
populations are built up of a different number of racial elements, more or 
less well-defined, but always struggling for the supremacy. The social 
selection of individuals suitable for town life may have altered in many 
places the physical average of the rural population and veiled the increase, 
that has really taken place, exaggerating on the other side the real increase 
of stature in the towns. The rapidly falling death-rate has, beyond doubt, 
played a part, although it is rather difficult to point out in what way. 
It is far from my intention to endeavour to give a complete scrutiny 
of the agencies that may have influenced the growth of man in this last 
half century. I only wish to call attention to the study of this most inter­ 
esting question in presenting some old and new facts, partly from the 
literature and partly from my own studies. The inter-departmental Com­ 
mittee on physical deterioration, which brought together a vast amount of 
evidence concerning the physical condition of the present British people, 
did not succeed in elucidating the question of the increase in height. The 
Committee had only at disposal four cases in which a comparison between 
measurements from different periods was possible, and the result was con­ 
tradictory, or at all events, uncertain. Only in one case was a real and 
undoubted increase of height established, the boys at Marlborough College, 
from 14 to 15 years old, having increased from 61.40 inches in 1874-78 to 
61.96 inches in 1899-1902. This increase of 0.56 inches, or 1.42 centi­ 
metres in 25 years is by no means exceptional, but there are some reasons 
for believing that the improvement did not commence much before this 
period. The final Report of the Anthropometric Committee appointed by the 
British Association for the Advancement of Science, in 1875, and submitting 
the Report in 1883, contains a table (XXIV.) showing the average stature 
and weight of factory children at an interval of 40 years, and another
        

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