Anthropometry

The field of ergonomics employs anthropometry to optimize human interaction with equipment and workplaces.

Anthropometry (from Greek ἄνθρωπος anthropos, 'human', and μέτρον metron, 'measure') refers to the measurement of the human individual. An early tool of physical anthropology, it has been used for identification, for the purposes of understanding human physical variation, in paleoanthropology and in various attempts to correlate physical with racial and psychological traits. Anthropometry involves the systematic measurement of the physical properties of the human body, primarily dimensional descriptors of body size and shape.[1] Since commonly used methods and approaches in analysing living standards were not helpful enough, the anthropometric history became very useful for historians in answering questions that interested them.[2]

Today, anthropometry plays an important role in industrial design, clothing design, ergonomics and architecture where statistical data about the distribution of body dimensions in the population are used to optimize products. Changes in lifestyles, nutrition, and ethnic composition of populations lead to changes in the distribution of body dimensions (e.g. the rise in obesity) and require regular updating of anthropometric data collections.

History

A Bertillon record for Francis Galton, from a visit to Bertillon's laboratory in 1893

The history of anthropometry includes and spans various concepts, both scientific and pseudoscientific, such as craniometry, paleoanthropology, biological anthropology, phrenology, physiognomy, forensics, criminology, phylogeography, human origins, and cranio-facial description, as well as correlations between various anthropometrics and personal identity, mental typology, personality, cranial vault and brain size, and other factors.

At various times in history, applications of anthropometry have ranged vastly—from accurate scientific description and epidemiological analysis to rationales for eugenics and overtly racist social movements—and its points of concern have been numerous, diverse, and sometimes highly unexpected.