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Dynamometer, France, 1890-1910

Force or power is measured by a dynamometer. This example measured the force of the hand. The metal gauge gives a relative reading of the force used when the two ebony handles are grasped and squeezed. The device may have been used in anthropometrical studies. In the 1800s, many anthropologists attempted to measure differences between human groups. Physical strength was mistakenly associated with a lack of intellectual development or ‘civilisation’.

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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.