Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How the bicycle made us taller

There's a fascinating letter from Peter Barnes on today's Guardian Obituaries page:
The work of James Tanner ... is replete with thought-provoking observations. His time as a pupil at Marlborough college appears, later, to have afforded him access to the records of the medical officer and the natural science master dating from 1873. Using these as a baseline, Tanner showed how the average height of the boys when aged sixteen and a half had risen by half an inch a decade over an 80-year period.
In Foetus Into Man (1978), he suggested that this "secular trend" was in part a consequence of improved nutrition, but also attributable to genetic factors. The latter included the increased incidence of procreation outside the village community, a key factor in which was the introduction of the bicycle.

1 comment:

Cornishjim said...

My father always maintained that this was the case - his grandfather and his brother had one bike between them but that gave them a radius of at least 20 miles to aim for (1 mile run/ 1 mile cycle & then swap over) and hence a huge increase in the number of available young ladies. Both married localish girls, but from diffent counties (Wexford and Waterford)
Mind you one went to Ceylon to grow tea the other Kenya and coffee, which I don't think involved a bike and neither my father or grandfather were very tall (hooker size which is where they both played). No doubt your friend Evan Harris would not be impressed by the data.