ARE WE GETTING TALLER?

Anyone who has ever visited a home built around the time of the Revolutionary War along the back alleys of Philadelphia or Boston has been struck, metaphorically if not literally, by the characteristically low ceilings and small door frames. Even houses built in the early 1800s can make one believe that a person of those times had to be a midget, by today’s standards. If not, it’s a wonder how the original dwellers managed to stay conscious long enough in such houses to participate in an industrial revolution and a civil war.

If you go to the Tower of London you see small suits of armor and conclude those guys were shorter than us. Even antique beds found from that age are almost a foot shorter than beds today.

President George Washington was considered literally a giant among men in his day; he measured 6 feet, two inches. Certainly a lot shorter than a typical major league basketballer of today.

Just promenade down to a colonial-era cemetery; you will see that the tombs are very small.

Thus a strong view maintains that over the last 150 years the average height of people in the developed nations has increased approximately 10 centimeters (about four inches).

But the counter contention is there, too. If you go to Germany, you see suits of armor for the Black Knight and Red Knight, made for men 6’5” and that certainly suggests men were actually taller than us ,a few centuries ago.

But again, the armor suits of fighting men are unlikely to represent an unbiased sample of the population. Militaries always have had a minimum height requirements and chose to hire tall men only !

There are legends and tales about the red haired giants, but they could be apocryphal. There is also evidence from archaeological surveys at various locations across the world adumbrating that some very large sized humans existed once.  

Then there are views, that say it’s a bit of a myth that we were all short in ancient times. Hunter gatherers were often quite tall because of their protein rich diet. In the neolithic when the diet became more cereal-based we became smaller. People seemed to get shorter in medieval and later times; this was due to living a life of deprivation in cities that were overcrowded and unhygienic. Relatively, their ancestors were well nourished; they would have all herded animals or grown their own food. By the middle of this century as people understood nutrition and medical science, there was better life and we once again hit the heights of our bronze age ancestors !

All said and done , consensus is that the past 300 years have made us not only taller, but also brawnier and helped us to live longer. These changes in the human body were sprier than in the previous thousands of years of our evolutionary history.

The average adult man in 1850 in America stood about 5 feet 7 inches and weighed about 146 pounds; someone born then was expected to live until about 45. In the 1980s the typical adult man was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed about 174 pounds and was likely to pass his 75th birthday.

Most geneticists believe that improvements in food production , public health and childhood nutrition have been the most important factors in allowing humans to increase in stature. Newly developed economies are observing taller average heights due to better quality of food.

The other likely factor for humans becoming taller is from the Darwinian evolutionary theory. Societies have universally found that taller people are more successful in life. A recent survey found 26 out of the last 30 American presidential contests went to the taller candidate. Our species has been gravitating towards choosing a tall mate. Therefore, in each generation, tall people are slightly more successful in passing on their genes; the species is getting taller by the generation. Height has another perquisite; it allows us more efficient dissipation of heat .

However if each generation spawns taller and taller people ,could one day our progeny be 16’8” tall ?

Not likely. So while humans will probably continue get a little taller for a while, there’s a physical limit to this rampant growth, and we’re probably almost there. Unless our skeletal structures also evolve. The likelihood of joint and bone problems shoots up substantially at this height, so do the circulation issues related to pumping blood all the way up.

We have grown to just the optimum height ,hopefully. Further growth will be nugatory; any taller and our food needs, housing needs and fuel needs will will grow to a level where the earth’s resources won’t be sufficient for all of us. And our colonizing of another preferably, lower-gravity planet doesn’t seem imminent !

 

  • Apocryphal

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; probably not true, but widely believed to be true

Synonyms : fictional

Adumbrating

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; indicating or hinting

Synonyms : outlining

Brawnier

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; more stronger or strong physically

Synonyms : heftier

Contention

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun a point asserted as part of an argument; the act of competing as for profit or a prize; a contentious speech act; a dispute where there is strong disagreement

Synonyms : disputation

  • Cemetery

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; an area of ground in which the dead are buried

Synonyms : graveyard

  • Colonizing

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; to go to and live permanently as part of a settlement in a foreign land that was previously sparsely inhabited

Synonyms : settling

Deprivation

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; act of depriving someone of food or money or rights; the disadvantage that results from losing something; a state of extreme poverty

Synonyms : privation

Dissipation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; breaking up and scattering by dispersion

Other Meaning(s) : useless or profitless activity; using or expending or consuming thoughtlessly or carelessly; dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasure

Synonyms : discharge

Dwellers

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the residents of a place

Synonyms : inhabitants

  • Geneticists

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; a student or specialist in genetics

Synonyms : genetic specialist

  • Gravitating

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; to move gradually or steadily toward something or somebody as if drawn by some force or attraction

Synonyms : inclining

Imminent

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; close in time; about to occur

Synonyms : impending

Midget

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; very small; noun a person who is markedly small

Synonyms : bantam

  • Metaphorically

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : adverb; in a metaphorical manner, e.g. She expressed herself metaphorically

Synonyms : figuratively

  • Nugatory

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; of no real value

Synonyms : inconsequential

 

  • Neolithic

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; the latest period between about 8000 BC and 5000 BC

Synonyms : New Stone Age

  • Perquisite

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a right reserved exclusively by a particular person or group (especially a hereditary or official right); an incidental benefit awarded for certain types of employment (especially if it is regarded as a right)

Synonyms : privilege

  • Progeny

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the immediate descendants of a person

Synonyms : offspring

  • Promenade

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; take a leisurely walk; march in a procession

Other Meaning(s) : noun; a march of all the guests at the opening of a formal dance; a square dance figure; couples march counterclockwise in a circle; a public area set aside as a pedestrian walk; a formal ball held for a school class toward the end of the academic year; a leisurely walk (usually in some public place)

Synonyms : saunter

  • Rampant

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; unrestrained and violent in nature

Other Meaning(s) : adjective (of a plant) having a lush and unchecked growth

Synonyms : unbridled

  • Spawns

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; gives birth to

Synonyms : breeds

  • Sprier

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; moving more quickly

Synonyms : nimbler

  • Substantially

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adverb; in a significant manner or amount

Synonyms : considerably

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