Using data obtained during the first four complete surveys of a general population sample (2,435 spirometric studies on 916 different asymptomatic nonsmoking subjects), we have derived mathematically continuous equations designed to describe the stages of growth, maturation, and subsequent decline in the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and the forced vital capacity (FVC). With this type of analysis, there appears to be a period from late childhood through adolescence in which maturation significantly increases FVC and FEV1 independent of growth, and a stage from late adolescence to the early or mid-30s in which there is relatively little change in these measurements. Progressive decline in FVC and FEV1 may not actually begin until the mid-30s. The mathematical formulae presented here were derived in a manner intended to describe biologic events and are not intended for use as prediction equations. The FEV1/FVC ratio appeared to be primarily a function of the FVC itself in young subjects. After the age of 33 years, FEV1/FVC also decreased with age, independent of the size of the FVC.