Body Proportions

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Body Proportions


in man, the interrelationship between the projectional dimensions and the individual parts of the human body. Body proportions are used in determining an individual’s physique, which is important in the evaluation of physical development.

Attempts to establish the regularity of body proportions, that is, the dependence of different parts of the body on a single original dimension, were first made in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome by sculptors and artists, who endeavored to reproduce the ideal type of human body.

In modern anthropology, various indexes are used extensively to characterize body proportions. In human morphology, for example, a scheme is widely used that takes into account the length of the frame and lower extremities and the width of the shoulders. The ratio of the transverse diameter (width) of the shoulders and length of the extremities to the total length of the body (height) is calculated in order to distinguish the types of body proportions. On the basis of the correlation of these dimensions, three types of proportions have been established: dolichomorphic, brachymorphic, and mesomorphic. The dolichomorphic type is characterized by a narrow and short torso and comparatively long extremities. The brachymorphic type has a wide and long torso and comparatively short extremities. The mesomorphic type is classified between the above two types.

Proportional characteristics are derived from special tables that are compiled on the basis of specific population groups; for example, some tables are based on ethnogeography, and some on age and sex. These tables take into account the actual variation patterns of body dimensions and the dependence of different parts of the body on a single original dimension; this information is not expressed in indexes and is based specifically on the principle of disproportional (heteromorphic) variations. Correlation analysis and regression analysis are used to compile tables. In comparison to an adult, a child has comparatively shorter legs, a longer torso, and a larger head. In relation to body length, a woman has a wider pelvis and narrower shoulders than a man.

There are also ethnogeographic group differences in body proportions; for example, the brachymorphic type is typical of the Eskimo, and the dolichomorphic type, of tall variants of the Negroid race.


Bunak, V. V. “Opyt tipologii proportsii tela i standartizatsii glavnykh antropometricheskikh razmerov.” Uch. zap. MGU, 1937, fase. 10.
Bashkirov, P. N. Uchenie of fizicheskom razvitii cheloveka. Moscow, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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