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Oval dynamometer, Paris, France, 1840-1880

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A dynamometer is used to measure muscle strength. In the 1800s, many anthropologists attempted to measure differences between human groups. Physical strength was mistakenly believed to be associated with a lack of intellectual development or ‘civilisation’. Made by Mathieu, a French surgical instrument maker, the dynamometer was used by Paul Broca (1824-80), a French surgeon and anthropologist.

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Glossary: dynamometer

An apparatus for measuring force or power. In particular muscular effort of humans or animals, the power developed by a motor, or that needed to operate machinery. It commonly has a spring to be compressed or weight to be sustained by the force applied.

Glossary: anthropometry

The measuring of body parts so that comparisons can be made. The aim is to measure normal and abnormal development. In the past, it has also been used in attempts to measure racial difference.

Glossary: physical anthropology

The study of humans, mainly their biological and physical make-up as well as their evolutionary history.

Glossary: anthropology

The social, cultural and geographical study of humans and humankind.