Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/328

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
314
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

search, and to indicate the path which promises to be most favorable in the future. If my life proves to be as long as your patience, there will be plenty of opportunities hereafter to consider some points which I have been unable to touch upon to-day.

 

VARIATIONS IN HUMAN STATURE.
By M. GUYOT DAUBÉS.

THE study of human stature involves several questions of more important interest than that of mere theory or curiosity. It may aid us in learning whether the human race is really degenerating, as some persons assert, by determining whether our ancestors in heroic and prehistoric times had the superior physical prowess that is often ascribed to them. It should teach us whether there are races of dwarfs and of giants, and what are the distances separating the races that most nearly approach those descriptions. We learn from it the exact facts respecting the differences in stature among the people of a single nation, our own, for instance, to which military men attach high value. Other fields of inquiry, of a practical bearing, regard the causes that influence the stature of populations and races in general, and the growth of individuals, from infancy up; and the influence of stature upon the force, agility, endurance, and physical development of individuals. An opinion was current, in the last century, that our ancestors, at some time in the past, were the equals or superiors in size to the largest men now to be found. M. Henrion presented to the Académie des Inscriptions, in 1718, a memoir on the variations in the size of man from the beginning of the world till the Christian era, in which Adam was given one hundred and twenty-three feet nine inches, and Eve one hundred and eighteen feet nine and three fourths inches. But after the first pair, the human race, in his imagination, suffered a regular decrease, so that Noah was only one hundred feet high, while Abraham shrank down to twenty-eight feet, Moses to thirteen feet, the mighty Hercules to ten feet eight and a half inches, and Alexander the Great to a bare six feet and a half. The communication, it is said, was received with enthusiasm, and was regarded, at the time, as a "wonderful discovery" and a "sublime vision"

The complaint about the degeneracy of the human race is not new, but dates as far back as the time of Homer, at least; for the men of his day were not like the heroes of whom he sang. It is not confirmed, but is contradicted by all the tangible facts, and these are not a few. Human remains that are exhumed, after having reposed in the grave for many centuries, as in the Catacombs of Paris, have nothing gigantic about them. The armor, the cuirasses, and the casques of the warriors of the middle ages, can be worn by modern soldiers; and many of the