Anthropometric Data

Anthropometric data includes the estimation of the mass, mass moment of inertia, lengths and geometry of the human body. It is found empirically by measuring a subject‚s height, length between anatomical landmarks, weight, etc. Properties such as density, and segment (e.g. hand, upper arm) mass as a percentage of total body mass are often estimated from cadaver studies. In these studies, several cadavers are dissected and tables are generated by statistically analyzing the anthropometric data. Be careful in applying this data, it is often based on a limit number of cadavers of limited types. In this context, limited types refers to the cadaver‚s sex. age, physical build, etc. Can one apply anthropometric data from a study of male soldiers age 18-25 to a 12 year old boy? What about an 85 year old woman?



For example, if one wants to find the mass of a person‚s hand, there are several options such as:


Measure the volume of the hand. This may be done by placing the hand in a container of water that has been filled to its top. As the hand is submerged to the wrist, water will spill out of the container. Capture this with a second container and measure its volume with a graduated cylinder. Multiply this volume with the hand‚s density. This may be found from cadaver studies. The following data represents densities obtained from 8 cadavers by W. T. Dempster in 1955. (W.T. Dempster, "Space Requirements of the Seated Operator," WADC-TR-55-159, Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories, Ohio, 1955.)



DENSITY [gram/cm^3]

Head and Neck




Upper Arm








Lower Leg





A second method assumes that the mass of the hand can be estimated from the subject‚s total body weight. The table below from Web Associates, "Anthropometric Source Book," National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., 1979, may be applied. For example, the weight of the hand would be estimated as: hand_weight = 0.118 * 0.051 * total_body_weight.


Grouped Segments Expressed as a Percentage of Total Body Weight

Individual Segments Expressed as a Percentage of Grouped Segment Weight

Head and Neck: 8.4%

Head: 73.8%

Neck: 26.2%

Torso: 50.0%

Thorax: 43.8%


Lumbar: 29.4%


Pelvis: 26.8%

Total Arm: 5.1%

Upper Arm: 54.9%


Forearm: 33.3%


Hand: 11.8%

Total Leg: 15.7%

Thigh: 63.7%


Shank: 27.4%


Foot: 8.9%


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Support for the development of this module was provided by the National Science Foundation and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Please send questions or comments to Professor Ron Adrezin or Professor Daniel Raichel.