History and Basics of Anthropometry

History and Basics of Anthropometry

Anthropometry is the method of obtaining precise measurements of the human body. It gives the comparative study of the measurements and capabilities of the human body. It is derived from the Greek word ‘Anthropos’ (meaning human), and ‘matron’ (meaning measure).

Bertillon anthropometric system

Anthropometry developed in the 19th century as a method implemented by physical anthropologists for the study of human variation and evolution in both living and extinct populations.

Specifically, anthropomorphic measurements involve the

  • Size (e.g., height, weight, area, and volume),
  • Structure (e.g., height, width, length of various body parts), and
  • Composition (e.g., the percentage of body fat, water content, and body mass) of humans.

History of Anthropometry: Alphonse Bertillon(1853-1914)

Alphonse Bertillon, son of the physician and founder of the Society of Anthropology of Paris, is credited as the father of anthropometrics based on his classification system known as the “anthropometric system” or “judicial anthropometry”.

Basic Human Anthropometry(in mm)

Alphonse Bertillon began his career working for the Paris police in the criminal records department. Here he recognized the repeating problem that it was becoming increasingly more challenging to identify repeat offenders, as the criminal records were stored alphabetically and many criminals were devising aliases to avoid severe sentences. To solve this issue, Bertillon devised a new classification system based on anthropomorphic measurements with the assumptions that bone density is fixed past the age of 20 years, and human dimensions are highly variable.

Bertillon acquired measurements of height, breadth, foot size, length and width of the head, length of the middle finger, and the length of the left forearm, as well as other physiological and distinguishing characteristics of criminals in custody (as shown above). He then classified each according to size as small, medium, or large, and added frontal and profile photography to each file. Such photography technique is still currently used today in the form of a “mug shot”. The use of this anthropometric system was termed “Bertillonage”, and it spread rapidly throughout the world during the late 1800s & early 1900s.

Tools for Anthropometry

A variety of specialized tools (as depicted below) are used to obtain anthropometric measurements:

  • Stadiometers: height
  • Anthropometers: length and circumference of body segments
  • Bicondylar calipers: bone diameter
  • Skinfold calipers: skin thickness and subcutaneous fat
  • Scales: weight


There has been a wide range of applications of anthropometry during history, including:

  • Paleoanthropology and human evolution
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Craniometry and craniofacial attributes
  • Phylogeographic
  • Criminology and Forensics
  • Phrenology
  • Physiognomy
  • Personality and mental typology
Basic Human Anthropometry (in mm)-2

Basic Human Anthropometry (in mm)     

Importance in Architecture & Designing

Anthropometry influences a wide range of industries, processes, services, and products and has considerable importance in optimizing the design of buildings.

Human dimensions and capabilities are the key factors in determining a building’s proportions and overall design. The underlying principle of anthropometrics is that building designs should be suitable to the human body, rather than people having to suit the buildings.

There are two primary areas of anthropometry:

  • Static anthropometry (Ergonomics) is the measurement of body sizes at rest and when using furniture & devices such as chairs, tables, beds, mobility devices, etc.
  • Functional anthropometry is the measurement of abilities related to movement tasks, such as reaching, maneuvering and motion, and other aspects of space and equipment use.
Also Read: Average Human Sitting Posture Dimensions Required in Interior Design

Anthropometrics in building design aims to ensure that every user is as comfortable as possible. In practical terms, this means that the dimensions must be appropriate, ceilings quite high enough, doorways and hallways quite wide enough, and so on. In recent times, it has particular significance for workplace design.

Anthropometry provides a range of standard requirements and approved solutions for designers to help ensure suitable designs. However, it is essential to consider the specific purpose and needs of the user.

Older people, children, people with mobility issues, wheelchair users and so on may have different & specific requirements. In particular, good accessibility and smooth movement around the building must be considered when designing buildings and its features.

Anthropometry also has an impact on space requirements for furniture and fittings. For example, a bathroom must have enough space to fit bath accessories comfortably; a bedroom must have enough space to install the required furniture comfortably; an office building must have enough space to fit office workstation

Also Read: Things to Keep in Mind Regarding Anthropometrics While Designing

Anthropometry helps you to find out the minimum standard dimensions needed for a human being to meet in a specified work area and perform his regular activity efficiently.

Basic Human Anthropometry (in mm)-3

Basic Human Anthropometry-2(in mm)

Basic Anthropometry - 05 - 0102060026

Basic Human Anthropometry-3(in mm)

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