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Measurement at home

Vitruvian People


Are you taller or wider?

  • Was an ancient Roman architect right about human proportions?
  • Does your 'fingertip to fingertip' width = your height?
  • If you measure more than once, do you get the same value?
  • How much taller are you after lying down for 15 minutes?

Estimated time: 20 minutes
No experience needed

Equipment required

  • square floor space at least your height in width/depth next to a wall
  • Three objects (like books) to mark positions on floor
  • ruler or tape measure
  • paper and pen/pencil to write down results
  • calculator to find averages and ratio


  • Make sure other people are aware you are lying on the floor as part of an experiment.

Vitruvian people worksheet

Vitruvian people report


Watch the video

  1. Clear a square space on the floor next to a wall that is about your height wide and long.
  2. Lie down flat with your bare feet flat on the wall and place an object like a book to mark the top of your head on the floor. Use two more objects to mark the distance between your fingertips as far apart as you can get them.
  3. Stand up and measure the height and width you just marked out.
  4. Repeat the experiment three more times and find the average and range of each measurement type.
  5. Calculate the ratio of the two measurements. This is the average height divided by average width.
  6. Try repeating the measurement after lying on your back on the floor for 15 minutes to see if your spine has shrunk.

Thoughts, tips and information

SI measurement units

  • metre (m) for length

Challenge Topics

  • Measurement Science, Maths
  • By how much do your measurements vary (and why?)
  • Does your height change after lying down for 15 minutes? How long do you need to stand up for your spine to shrink?
  • With age, the proportions of head size to height, and eye size to skull height change significantly.
  • The Vitruvian Man is a drawing made by Leonardo da Vinci in about 1490. It has notes on it from the Roman architect Vitruvius.

Enter your results

Please enter your results in the table below. You may enter as many results as you like THOUGH PLEASE REFRESH THIS PAGE BEFORE EACH NEW ENTRY. Each time you click Submit, you will send us the information written in the cells below.

Height (cm)
Width (fingertip to fingertip) (cm)
* These are optional – the name is so we could mention you in the end of week report and the postcode is to see where people are taking part. We won’t use this information for anything else.