Evidence of seasonal variation in longitudinal growth of height in a sample of boys from Stuttgart Carlsschule, 1771-1793, using combined principal component analysis and maximum likelihood principle

Homo. 2010 Feb;61(1):59-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jchb.2009.11.003. Epub 2009 Dec 16.


Recent progress in modelling individual growth has been achieved by combining the principal component analysis and the maximum likelihood principle. This combination models growth even in incomplete sets of data and in data obtained at irregular intervals. We re-analysed late 18th century longitudinal growth of German boys from the boarding school Carlsschule in Stuttgart. The boys, aged 6-23 years, were measured at irregular 3-12 monthly intervals during the period 1771-1793. At the age of 18 years, mean height was 1652 mm, but height variation was large. The shortest boy reached 1474 mm, the tallest 1826 mm. Measured height closely paralleled modelled height, with mean difference of 4 mm, SD 7 mm. Seasonal height variation was found. Low growth rates occurred in spring and high growth rates in summer and autumn. The present study demonstrates that combining the principal component analysis and the maximum likelihood principle enables growth modelling in historic height data also.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Height*
  • Child
  • Germany
  • Growth*
  • History, 18th Century
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Principal Component Analysis*
  • Seasons*
  • Young Adult