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Skinfold callipers for estimating body fat, England, 1954-1960

Callipers are used to estimate body fat by measuring the thickness of tissue directly under the skin. These callipers were used during the Harpenden Growth Study (1948-1970), which looked at the growth of children from a children’s home in Harpenden in Hertfordshire. The study monitored them from pre-school to maturity. The callipers were tested and used by the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Committee on Growth and Form, set up in 1951. The aim was to gather scientific data about the human body, establish norms for weight and height for different ages and sections of society and identify those factors which affect the rate of growth.

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Related Themes and Topics



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: BMI

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a way of working out if a person is over or under weight. It is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres. The resulting number is then divided by height in metres again. Currently it is suggested that a healthy BMI lies between 18.5 and 25.

Glossary: calliper

Instruments consisting usually of a pair of hinged legs used for measuring dimensions, for example thickness or diameters.