This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
In the foregoing section we have seen how the constitution is sometimes wrecked by the local diseases which we have treated of in the present work. We have traced these effects from their incipient stages until mind and body were involved. Let us now, in order to relieve this dark picture and dismal theme, turn our attention for a few paragraphs to the reverse of it, to man in the ideal perfection of his phy-sical frame, and learn whether there are any stable laws in that department of nature; and if so, what they are.
The artist who studies man not as he is, broken and debased by indulgence, but as he should be, in the enjoyment of all the powers which health and virtue can grant, will be our guide.
He discovers that in the perfect physical type of mac there are certain definite proportions which constitute symmetry, and make up a harmony which reappears in every statue and painting of the highest class, and which the instinct of the artist appreciates more quickly than the tape-line of the anatomist.
The details of this harmony will be interesting to note.
The unit of the scale is the length of the nose measured from the inner corner of the eye downward.
Four times this unit equals the height of the head measured from the crown to a line horizontal with the point of the chin.
Eight times this unit equals the distance from the crown of the head to a line drawn around the chest at the level of the armpits.
Sixteen times the unit equals the distance from the crown to the junction of the lower limbs.
And thirty-one times the unit equals the total height from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head; and this again is equal to the distance from the extremity of the middle finger of one hand to that of the other when the arms are extended.
Very numerous and minuter measurements are given in works which treat of the rules of drawing and sculpture. The physician, with mind fixed on the attainment of life and health, naturally might expect this ideal physical type to coincide with that endowed with longest life and greatest strength.
Singular to say, he would be in the wrong.
" The graceful shape and form of perfect symmetry," remarks an eminent army surgeon of large experience, " are seldom connected with power, activity, and that inexhaustible fund of endurance which support toils and fatigues with constancy and firmness."
By what, then, can the capacity in a man for physical labor and endurance be judged ?
This interesting question has recently been answered by a German physician, who has devoted much time to the study of the external conformation of the human body. He includes in his formula three factors, the height, the weight, and the circumference of the chest on a line with the nipple; and he decides that the greater the proportion of the latter to the former factors, the greater the physical capacity.
It was a familiar fact in our late war that neither very tall nor very short men supported the toils of field service as well as those of a medium stature. Nor is it common to observe either extreme in stature reach an advanced old age.
In one sense, the whole external form of a man is a commentary, and a disclosure of his nature, habits, and disposition. There is a physiognomy which is not confined to the face, but embraces the whole body. A gifted French surgeon, by close observation, became such an adept in this science, that he could, without fail, ascertain the profession to which a man belonged, by examining his body. As passion and indulgence leave their Cain-like brand upon the face, so occupation impresses its peculiarity on the muscles of the trunk and extremities.
The perfect physical type of manhood cannot be sought, therefore, amid the anxieties and toils of our marts and forums: it must not be expected in our gymnasia nor studios; it will not be found in struggling crowds; but we can expect it only where the wise ancients placed it. and where their works of art represent it - among the immortal gods.