Recently my son sent me the address to a New York Times article.
So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You
By GINA KOLATA
Published: July 30, 2006
The past 100 years has seen a change from small, sickly people to humans who are so robust their ancestors are almost unrecognizable.
The gist of the story was that someone had looked at the skeletal remains of some fifty Union soldiers and then generalized to the entire American population that we were a small, weak, sickly group of people. What nonsense!
To be sure the skeletons of the 1620 settlers to New England were small. Many of their bones showed that. So did the height of the decks on the replica of the Mayflower which is still in Massachusetts.
But, given the fresh air and good food in America, people began to reach their potentials. Here is a quote about one of my own English/Welsh Pryor ancestors, Samuel, who was born about 1698 in Virginia: “They had ten children, eight sons and two daughters: William, Samuel, John, Thornton, Robert, Luke, Frank, and Joseph; the youngest of the brothers and least of them weighed 220 pounds.”
In addition to the healthy living in the new country one must add the factor of genetics, specifically hybrid vigor, “Increased vigor or other superior qualities arising from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals. Also called heterosis.” In America the gene pool was quite broad and deep. The citizenry was vitalized by the hybrid vigor factor. Americans became a big, energetic, productive and smart nation due to this vigor.
You want proof? Who is the super power in the world today?
So if fifty scrawny Yankee soldiers were not in good shape, so be it. They were not smart or powerful enough to buy their way out of the draft. It is quite possible they were immigrants from ghettoes in European cities.
Whatever the case, there is no scientific support for generalizing to the entire American population from these fifty individuals of unknown origin.
There is no end to nonsense, pseudoscience or cuteness.
New York Times Civil War Genetics Health Politics