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Victorian Science and Nature

The British Association at Southport 1880's

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -

The British Association at SouthportTHE BRITISH ASSOCIATION AT SOUTHPORT.

Southport, Saturday Night.
Four of the sections, namely those devoted to the consideration of chemical science, anthropology, geography, and mechanical science, did not sit to-day, but adjourned until Monday, with the view of taking part in the excursion which left Southport early in the morning. The section which did meet were Mathematical and Physical Science, Geology, Biology, and Economic Science and Statistics, but they met an hour earlier than usual, and dispersed at noon. The sale of tickets has been only nineteen less than at the Jubilee Meeting at York. At York in 1880 the number sold was 2,557; at Southport this year 2,538, while at Southampton last year it was only 1,253.

In this section, which was held in St. Andrew’s Hall, Mr J. P. Martin in the chair, there was an average attendance.

Sir Rawson W. Ranson read the full text of the report of the Anthropometrics Committee, which was presented to the Anthropological Department on Saturday. The Report contains numerous tables illustrated by maps showing the stature, weight, and complexion of the population in the several counties of Great Britain and in the four provinces of Ireland, and was the first attempt to frame a physical census of the British Isles. The variations shown to exist in different parts of the country appear to be due chiefly to differences of racial origin. The descendants of the several invading nations, who are known to have been people of great stature, retain more or less their pre-eminence in that respect. On the other hand, the aborigines of Britain, who were of low or moderate stature, have bequeathed that peculiarity to their descendants. This was shown in a small table in which a few of the counties in which there has been the least admixture of foreign blood have bee compared. Early British Cardigan, Radnor, and Brecon average stature, 66.59 inches; Saxon Sussex, and Oxford, 67.22; Anglican Lothian, Northumberland, and Norfolk, 68.73; and Scandinavian Shetland, Caithness, North and East Yorks and Lincoln, 68.32. As regards geographical distribution, the maps indicate a greater stature in elevated districts above those in alluvial plains and beds of valleys. The inhabitants of the northern and colder districts exhibit the highest stature. The four nations of Europe which rank highest in this respect are Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Ireland, the three ranking lowest being Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The same table shows close accord between the average stature of the population of the United Kingdom and that of the white population of the United States, viz., British, 67.66 inches; America, 67.67. The statistics collected by the military authorities in the United States place the British soldiers serving in their armies during the civil war in the same order of stature as that assigned to the general population. The low stature in the West Riding of York, Durham, Hertford, Middlesex, and Surrey is attributed to the nature of the occupation of the people and their sanitary surroundings. The average stature of foreigners in Great Britain is 2 ½ inches below that of the British people. At the top of the list rank Polynesians and New Zealanders; next to them British of the first and professional class; then Patagonians, Vagos, peoples of the Congo, and afterwards Scotch. At the bottom of the scale stands the Laps, Adamanese, and bushmen of South Africa. The general result of the investigations of the committee is that country life and occupation are more favourable to physical development than town life and occupation. Criminals and lunatics are two inches shorter in stature than the general population from which they are drawn. As regards complexion there in is an excess of 10 per cent of dark men among the criminals, and 5 per cent, of fair men among the lunatics. The statures of the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade are given as selected men of the working classes. The former exceed the Criminal class, with whom they have to deal, in stature by 4.5 inches, and in weight by 43.3Ibs. The men of the Fire Brigade are selected for their activity, and general fitness to meet sudden and trying demands on their physical and mental energies. The data referring to them may be accepted, therefore, as typical of the best physique which can be obtained for an English army, and of which our army should consist at its best. Shetland, the southern half of Scotland, and the great part of Ireland, rank at the top of the scale with fair complexions. Munster, London, the home counties, with Bucks, Suffolk, and Essex, rank at the bottom with dark complexions. Thus far the report deals with adults only; it now treats of children and adults. In table XII.

The population is divided into five classes, according to their social condition and nurture. The first consists of the upper and upper-middle classes in good social positions, with very good nurture, styled in the report Professional Class. The second called Commercial, consist of the …

The Five classes of the British Population

…. The third compresses the agricultural or out-door labouring classes, and the fourth the artisan, or indoor town labouring classes, both with imperfect nurture. The fifth includes the remainder of the industrial classes with sedentary employments in towns and bad nurture.

These five classes represent respectively 4.46, 10.36, 47.46, 26.82, and 10.90 per cent. of the population. This classification has been applied in two tables, Nos. XIII and XIV., to children of 11 to 12 years of age and adults respectively, with striking results as regards the falling off in stature as we descend in the social scale – exhibiting a difference of five inches between the two extremes in the case of children, and of 3 ½ inches in the case of adults. The mean height of the adult descends from 69 inches in class 1 to 68, 67.5, 66.5 and 65.5 in classes 2 to 5. The mean height of the children descends from 55 in public schools to 54 inches in upper middle class schools, 53.5 in schools of the same class; 53 in elementary schools in the country, 52.5 the same in towns; 52 in factories and workshops in the country, 51.5 the same in towns; 51 in military asylums, and 50 in industrial schools. Table No. XV., representing the length and weight of male and female infants at birth, shows that there is little difference between the two sexes, only one-fifth of an inch in length, and three ounces in weight, both on the side of the males, viz., 19.53 and 19.32 inches, and 7.12 and 6.94 Ibs. The range of height in the 451 males observed was 10 inches, and among 466 females observed it was 8 inches. In connection with the growth of children the committee furnishes a diagram showing the annual growth in stature, weight, chest girth, strength of arm for both sexes, and of girth of head, arm, and legs of males. An examination of the curves and tables shows the following facts: -

(1) Growth is most rapid during the first five years of life.
(2) From birth to the age of five the rate of growth is about the same in both sexes.
(3) From 5 to 10 years boys grow a little more rapidly than girls, the difference being apparently due to a check in the growth of girls at these ages.
(4) From 10 to 15 girls grow more rapidly than boys, and at the ages 11 ½ to 14 ½ are actually taller, and from 12 ½ to 15 ½ years actually heavier than boys. This difference appears to be due to a check in the growth of boys, as well as an acceleration in the growth of girls incident on the accession of puberty.
(5) From 15 to 20 years boys again take the lead, and grow at first rapidly, and gradually slower, and complete their growth at about 25 years, after fifteen, girls grow very slowly, and attain their full stature about the 20th year.
(6) The tracings and tables show a slow but steady increase in stature up to the 50th year, and a more rapid increase in weight up to the 60th year in males, but the statistics of females are too few after the age of 23, to yield any results.
(7) The curve of the chest-girth in males shows an increase at a rate similar to that of the weight up to the age of 50 years, but it happens to have no definte relation to the curve of stature.
(8) The strength of males increase rapidly from 12 to 19 years, and at a rate similar to that of the weight; more slowly and regularly up to 30 years, after which it declines at an increasing rate to the age of 60 years. The strength of females increase at a more uniform rate from 9 to 19 years, more slowly to 30, after which it falls off in a manner similar to that of males. The curves of strength for the two sexes are not parallel; at eleven years females are weaker than males by 22Ib., at 20 years of age by 36Ib.

The committee discusses the period of maturity in man, and gives its reasons for fixing it at 32 years in males and 20 in females, and also the influence of advancing age. The loss of stature resulting from the degeneration and loss of tissues, and the stooping position assumed by old people, is more than counter-balanced by the survival of a greater number of individuals who are above the average height. The uniform increase observed in the weight and chest-girth throughout adult life also confirms this view. Other tables to industrial schools, and afford another illustration of the difference between children in classes at the extremes of the social scale. Boys at the age of 14, are nearly seven inches shorter of stature and 24 ¾ Ibs lighter in weight than the first or highest class in the preceding table. Two tables, showing the average stature and weight, first of factory children at an interval of 40 years, viz., between 1833 and 1873, and, secondly, of boys in the Friends’ School at York for 27 years, enabled the committee to throw a favourable light on the question of the physical improvement or degeneracy of the population. Among the factory children, there has been a slight increase in stature, and a large increase in weight at corresponding ages, while among the more favoured class in the other school the stature has remained stationary, and there has been a slight improvement in weight. The appendix contains some tables relating to recruits for the British army, which show that recruits of the age of 18 years may be expected to increase 1 inch in stature, 1 ½ in chest girth, and 10Ib. in weight before they attain to the age of 22 years.

On the motion of Mr Frank Fellows, seconded by Mr F. Galton, the report was adopted.

Mr Walford remarked that if we were to judge from ancient suits of armour preserved in our national museums there must have been a considerable deterioration in the British race both in regard to statue and physical strength.

Mr Jas. Heywood, Professor Leoni Levi, and other gentlemen took part in the discussion.

Referenced links: -
The Illustrated London News 1883
Charles William Siemens
Mulhall Brothers
Life and Letters of Francis Galton