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Author Topic: How tall was Amelia?  (Read 114850 times)

Ric Gillespie

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How tall was Amelia?
« on: November 28, 2015, 10:59:09 AM »

In re-evaluating the conclusions in TIGHAR's 1999 paper Amelia Earhart's Bone and Shoes, Dr. Richard Jantz has asked us to get an accurate forensic measurement of Earhart's height.

The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum has given permission for Jeff Glickman and me to do that on January 11, 2016. By comparing measurements we'll take of Earhart's transatlantic Vega 5B to historical photos of Earhart standing in front of that same aircraft, we should be able to get an accurate height.

Because museum personnel will need to partially disassemble the exhibit to accommodate us, we'll be taking those measurements early in the morning.  Later in the morning, after the museum opens, Jeff and I will take a walk through the museum just for the fun of it. Anyone who cares to join us is more than welcome.

In addition to helping Dr. Jantz, knowing her height will help us answer many questions.

One of the oft-debated topics in evaluating evidence of Earhart's possible survival (for a while anyway) as a castaway on Gardner Island is the question of her shoe size.  Earhart’s height, according to the information on her pilot’s license, was 5 feet 8 inches. U.S. Army data for predicting foot size by height (useful in knowing what size shoes to stock) indicates that the average foot size for an American woman 5 feet 8 inches tall is 257mm ± 9.03mm. In other words, if Earhart had “normal” size feet for her height they were between 248mm and 266mm in length. Her shoes, of course, would be somewhat longer.

A pair of dress shoes that Amelia reportedly purchased in Ireland in 1932 measure 254mm or 10 inches in length, roughly an American woman’s size 6 1/2. he shoes are quite narrow, AA or perhaps even AAA width. Amelia gave the shoes to her friend Helen Hutson Weber in November of 1932, according to Ms. Weber, “not for sentimental reasons but because they hurt her.”

TIGHAR found some shoe parts at the baby grave site on Aukeraime South in 1991.  The implied length of that shoe was 277mm. How does that compare with Earhart's expected shoe size?  See Shoe Fetish, Part 1 and http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Research/Bulletins/31_ShoeFetish2/31_ShoeFetish2.html

Based on the partial sole he found with the bones in 1940, Gallagher estimated the "woman's stout walking shoe or sandal" to have been a size 10. Perhaps one of our British Forum subscribers could tell us the length in mm of a current UK women's size 10, or better yet, find a 1930s vintage size women's shoe. See http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Research/Bulletins/48_ShoeFetish3/48_ShoeFetish3.html

Dr. Hoodless reported :
"By taking measurements of the length of the femur, tibia and the humerus I estimate that these bones belonged to a [male] skeleton of total height of 5 feet 5 1/2 inches approximately."
Would a man of that stature normally wear a size 10 shoe?
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Chris Johnson

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2015, 12:20:52 PM »

Was FN's height known?

If so then surely it would be easier and cheaper to work out AE's height from the many photographs taken of the pair together?
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2015, 12:25:16 PM »

From the two photos, it looks like you will have to account for two different types of tires, not to mention their state of inflation in comparison to what tires are currently on the Vega at the Smithsonian.  Also, the angle of the second photo looks to me like it was taken from an elevated position, which also will be hard to re-create.

Wouldn't some of the photos of AE in front of the Electra be as useful?  Or how about the photo of her in front of the Yellow Peril?  Do we know how tall Nilla Putnam was so we can compare? or Fred?  Seems like there should be multiple ways to investigate this question.

Should be interesting.  Wish I could join you.

Andrew

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Karen Hoy

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2015, 12:27:02 PM »

According to this Research Bulletin:

http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Research/Bulletins/09_Noonan/09_Noonan.html

Noonan was six feet and one-quarter inch.

LTM,

Karen Hoy #2610ER
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David Alan

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2015, 01:47:27 PM »

Andrew's note about tire inflation is a valid consideration if AE's height was to be obtained by a comparing it to various points between the ground and the Vega for their heights.  I am not a forensic photographer so I can't speak to what method Jeff G. will use, but I wonder if it might suffice to take a measurement of a known distance in the same visual plane that AE is standing in.  For example, the vertical distance between the centers of the wheel lug nuts.  (Is it the same nomenclature for aircraft and cars?) 

There would be no need to travel to the museum if you can trust the curators of the museum to provide an accurate measurement from the actual aircraft. Transferring the photographic distance between the lugs onto her body from the ground to the top of her head (which won't be exact since she is not bald) and then multiplying that count by the museum measurement should provide a fairly accurate estimate of her height.  Doing this -if practical- with several other photos would increase the likelihood of a fairly accurate measurement, but how accurate does accurate need to be?

Using the lug distance in the photo would take into account the perspective from the elevated position of the camera which Andrew also mentions.  It would not however account for the contrapposto posture AE has assumed in the photo, but would that 1/4" to 1/2" drop in her head position be a factor?  Nor would it take into account the height of her shoe heel/sole and any lifts she may or may not have worn.

cheers
d. alan
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Monty Fowler

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2015, 02:54:06 PM »

how accurate does accurate need to be?

What David said. If we're talking the matter of a half-inch, or less, it seems to me as a commonsense matter that there are far too many variables of an imponderable nature to make the effort worth it compared to what the ultimate knowledge gained may be. Regardless of who the expert may be. TIGHAR has a lot of priorities right now. Does this need to be one of them?

And no matter how close TIGHAR tries to get the measurement, its legions of detractors will shred the methodology and conclusions into oblivion, throwing the conclusions into at least reasonable doubt. Thus negating much of the perceived value.

Or so it seems to me.

LTM,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 EC
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
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Jerry Germann

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2015, 04:57:53 PM »

Along with the height information on the pilot license,...5'8", other documents list this feature as well,...such as this passport issued in 1932,....see attachment;
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2015, 05:01:47 PM »

Along with the height information on the pilot license,...5'8", other documents list this feature as well,...such as this passport issued in 1932,....see attachment;

5' 8" seems to be the stock answer. Note that the date of birth is wrong.
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Bill Mangus

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2015, 05:08:20 PM »

Ric, will this be downtown DC or out by Dulles?
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2015, 05:20:36 PM »

From the two photos, it looks like you will have to account for two different types of tires, not to mention their state of inflation in comparison to what tires are currently on the Vega at the Smithsonian.

I'm not sure there are two different types of tires. In one photo the airplane has wheel pants.  In the other it doesn't.  The tires may be the same, but I don't think it matters anyway.  Jeff will only use one of the photos. He'll need to measure the tire compression in the photo he decides to use. Once he has scaled the photo that should be easy. The airplane as exhibited in the museum is on jacks so there is no tire compression.  I'm not a photogrammetrist but it seems to me that it should just be a matter of adjusting for the height of the jack stands minus the amount of tire compression.

Also, the angle of the second photo looks to me like it was taken from an elevated position, which also will be hard to re-create.

If Jeff uses that photo he'll have to take that into account.  How hard it will be is beyond my pay grade.

Wouldn't some of the photos of AE in front of the Electra be as useful?

Except we don't have the Electra. The closest we could come would be the Finch/Kammerer replica in the Museum of Flight and it's "close but no cigar."  We do have the Vega.
 

Or how about the photo of her in front of the Yellow Peril?

I don't know if there is an appropriate photo of her in front of the Yellow Peril.  You have to have a photo where she's in the same plane as some part of the vehicle or object and visible from the bottom of her shoes to the top of her head whike standing on a hard surface. As I recall, the Yellow Peril is in a museum someplace but wherever it is it's harder to get to than NASM.

  Do we know how tall Nilla Putnam was so we can compare?

No, and that photo wouldn't help anyway.  AE and Nilla are not in the same plane as the airplane.

or Fred? 

We know Fred's height but I haven't been able to find a photo of AE and Fred standing up straight exactly shoulder-to-shoulder and visible from feet to head standing on a hard surface.

Seems like there should be multiple ways to investigate this question.

Like most of this forensic imaging stuff, it's a lot trickier than it looks.
Jeff does this kind of thing for a living.  He frequently testifies as an expert witness. He has to defend his work in court. People go to jail based on his findings. The work he does for TIGHAR is pro bono. He is paying his own way to DC. 

 
Should be interesting.  Wish I could join you.

Good questions.  Thanks.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2015, 05:22:37 PM »

Ric, will this be downtown DC or out by Dulles?

The Vega is downtown in the main museum.  Pioneers of Flight Gallery, second floor.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2015, 05:31:45 PM »

There would be no need to travel to the museum if you can trust the curators of the museum to provide an accurate measurement from the actual aircraft.

I have learned from experience not to trust NASM to do research for TIGHAR.  I'm grateful that they've agreed to let us have access to the aircraft.

how accurate does accurate need to be?

We'll do the best we can.  Jeff will come up with an answer and +/- margin of error.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2015, 05:42:09 PM »

And no matter how close TIGHAR tries to get the measurement, its legions of detractors will shred the methodology and conclusions into oblivion, throwing the conclusions into at least reasonable doubt. Thus negating much of the perceived value.

TIGHAR does not have legions of detractors.  TIGHAR has legions of supporters.  We have a handful of detractors whom we will never convince of anything. 
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David Alan

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2015, 06:07:40 PM »

how accurate does accurate need to be?
We'll do the best we can.  Jeff will come up with an answer and +/- margin of error.

My question about accuracy is not so much directed at Jeff's determination, though it is obviously important, but toward the request of Dr. Jantz,

In re-evaluating the conclusions in TIGHAR's 1999 paper Amelia Earhart's Bone and Shoes, Dr. Richard Jantz has asked us to get an accurate forensic measurement of Earhart's height.


Cheers,
d alan



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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How tall was Amelia?
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2015, 06:14:28 PM »

My question about accuracy is not so much directed at Jeff's determination, though it is obviously important, but toward the request of Dr. Jantz,

I don't know if we'll be able to get an accurate enough height to be of help to Dr. Jantz or not. All we can do is try.

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