Final body height is achieved as the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The aim of this article is to review past studies on body height that have followed different scientific traditions. In modern Western societies, about 20% of variation in body height is due to environmental variation. In poorer environments, this proportion is probably larger, with lower heritability of body height as well as larger socioeconomic body height differences. The role of childhood environment is seen in the increase in body height during the 20th century simultaneously with the increase in the standard of living. The most important non-genetic factors affecting growth and adult body height are nutrition and diseases. Short stature is associated with poorer education and lower social position in adulthood. This is mainly due to family background, but other environmental factors in childhood also contribute to this association. Body height is a good indicator of childhood living conditions, not only in developing countries but also in modern Western societies. Future studies combining different scientific traditions in auxology are needed to create a more holistic view of body height.