The ‘Vitruvian Man’ – Leonardo da Vinci‘s famous drawing from the year 1487 – can be described as one of the earliest sources presenting guidelines for hand anthropometry. Today, plays hand anthropometry a considerable role in the fields of design, ergonomics, and even architecture! An update presenting data from e.g. the NASA and the US army.

The drawing, which is in pen and ink on paper, depicts a male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or, less often, Proportions of Man.

Interestingly, Leonardo’s comments for the proportions of th e ‘Vitruvian Man‘ includes a few passage where the hands and fingers are mentioned, quote:

“For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same; the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth; from the middle of the breast to the summit of the crown is a fourth. If we take the height of the face itself, the distance from the bottom of the chin to the under side of the nostrils is one third of it; the nose from the under side of the nostrils to a line between the eyebrows is the same; from there to the lowest roots of the hair is also a third, comprising the forehead. The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth. The other members, too, have their own symmetrical proportions, and it was by employing them that the famous painters and sculptors of antiquity attained to great and endless renown. Similarly, in the members of a temple there ought to be the greatest harmony in the symmetrical relations of the different parts to the general magnitude of the whole. Then again, in the human body the central point is naturally the navel. For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centred at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it. For if we measure the distance from the soles of the feet to the top of the head, and then apply that measure to the outstretched arms, the breadth will be found to be the same as the height, as in the case of plane surfaces which are perfectly square.”

'Study of arms and hands' - another drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

 Leonardo da Vinci’s comment about the proportion of the average hand was quite right, but the field of anthropometry has later developed more precise methods in order to describe the most important individual variations concerning the human body. Various sources of anthropometric hand data indicate the average hand length is close to 11% of body height (usually slightly smaller). Leonardo’s ‘Study of arms and hands’ is another of his drawings.


Today, anthropometry plays an important role in industrial design, clothing design, ergonomics and architecture where statistical data about the distribution of body dimensions in the population are used to optimize products.


In the last decade of the 20 century reports became available developed by the NASA & the US army – which include data for at least 20 characteristics of the human hand shape, including e.g. hand length, hand breadth & finger length. The data in the picture above represents static human physical characteristics of the adult hand, presented in 2000 by the Department of Defense Human Factors Engineering Technical Advisory Group.

The picture below presents at the bottom some average data based on German, UK & American populations – which provide useful ‘points of reference’ in the perspective of biometry & Multi-Perspective Palm Reading.

Finally, regarding Leonardo da Vinci it might be interesting to notice here that in 2008 a report was published describing characteristics of his fingerprint:

Hand of a new born baby.

[tweetmeme source=”handresearch” only_single=false] In the hours after a baby is born, the baby will have several tests and examinations to check that he is healthy and well. Knowing what the doctors are looking for will put your mind at rest and give you the opportunity to ask any questions you might have. What is included in the ‘new born baby hand test’?


“The baby’s arms, hands, legs and feet will be checked. The fingers and toes are counted to make sure they are all there and to check for webbing (syndactyly). The hand palms will be checked for two palmar creases; a single palmar creases (a.k.a. simian line) is less common, however 4 per cent of the population have one palmar crease on one hand and 1 per cent have one palmar crease on both hands. This is sometimes associated with Down’s syndrome but in the unlikely event of your baby being affected there would be other hand signs, such as the ‘high positioned axial triradius’.”

Development of the hand lines in a baby hand!
Hand characteristics in Down’s syndrome!
Hand characteristics in fragile-X syndrome!
Preserving the shapes of a babies’ hands!

The SaeboStretch.The SaeboReach.The SaeboFlex.

BIONIC HANDS – 2004: Saebo presents SaeboFlex!

In 2004 Saebo presented their version of the bionic hand, a medical hand-device named the ‘SaeboFlex’. The ‘SaeboStretch’, ‘SaeboFlex’ and ‘Saeboxreach’ were developed in cooperation with CHMG Capital LLC, a Charlotte based provider of home health care that serves many stroke patients.

Interestingly, the founders of Saebo are Star Trek fans. The Saebo motto – “No Plateau in Sight” – refers to the idea that Saebo products help stroke patients continually improve their ability to work their hands and arms. One of the founders explained the logo of interlocking chevrons to The Charlotte Observer:

“We’re Star Trek fans,” Hoffman said, alluding to the insignia worn by Captain Kirk and Mister Spock. He was joking.

In 2004 Saebo already reported to have sold more than 1000 ‘SaeboFlex’ devices. In 2006 Saebo introduced the ‘SaeboStretch’ for national distribution, while the network then had grown to over 1,800 Saebo-trained occupational & physical therapists in the USA. And the ‘SaeboReach’ has become the newest upper extremity product in the Saebo family.

Since then the Saebo Program has been offered as a treatment option at over 2,000 clinics and hospitals in the US, including 22 of the “Top 25 Rehabilitation Hospitals” as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Saebo has also expanded their basis to e.g. Greece and Germany. And in 2008 the Saebo Program was named ‘Most Valuable Product’ by Therapy Times.

Demonstrations of the Saebo Program are availabe at the Saebo Youtube channel.

BIONIC HANDS: 12 Milestones for the bionic hand!
The world’s first hand transplantation!
Motion Contron presents: the ‘Utah arm’!
Bionic Hands – part 1: Star Wars!
RAPHaEl – the air powered robotic hand!
2007: How the I-limb became a commercial product!

Palmar keratosis is often seen in bladder cancer & lung cancer.

HANDS ON CANCER – ‘Palmar keratosis’ is often seen in various types of cancer!

‘Palmar keratosis’ is a relatively common skin condition characterized by an overgrowth of keratin on the skin of the hand. Interestingly, this skin condition in the hand is about 4 times more frequently observed in persons with various cancerous tumors, including: bladder cancer & lung cancer.

Some statistics on ‘palmar keratosis’ & cancer:

“This skin condition in the hand is about 4 times more frequently observed in persons with cancerous tumors – compared to healthy individuals (15% to 23%). Multiple studies have indicated that ‘palmar keratosis’ is especially very often seen in patients with bladder cancer (67% to 87%) or lung cancer (71%).”

NOTICE: ‘Skin keratosis’ is a very common (pre-cancerous growth) skin condition – ‘actinic keratosis‘, the most common variant, is usually found on various body parts, including: the backs of the upper arms, thighs, and (especially in women) the buttocks areas.


HANDS ON CANCER: 4 hand characteristics related to various cancers!
HAND-FOOT SYNDROME: Why a cancer patient may have no fingerprints!
Can palm reading pick up ovarian cancer?
Tripe palms may signal lung cancer or stomach cancer!
Nail clubbing may signal lung, heart & stomach diseases!
Palmar fascial thickening + deeper palm lines linked with ovarian cancer!