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Book reviews

Perspectives in human growth,
development and maturation

Edited by Parasmani Dasgupta and Roland Hauspie
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht/Boston/London, 2001.
ISBN 1 85383 700 8 ISBN 1 4020 0000 6, hardback.
Price: 148.50 EUR / US$130.00 / 90.25 GBP

This publication on Perspectives in human growth, development and maturation, edited by Parasmani Dasgupta and Roland Hauspie, is an example of a compilation of eclectic articles, resulting in an interesting and useful publication. This publication is not the result of a symposium where the various studies had been presented; instead they were solicited from various researchers in the scientific area of auxology - as Prof. Tanner described, "from Kathmandu to Caracas, Oaxaca to Alice Springs" - in honour of an early pioneer in this field, Prof. Sudhir Ranjan Das. One might ask, "What is Auxology?" It does not appear in most dictionaries. It is simply the science of growth.

The book is divided in to four topical sections: 1) "Methodological aspects of growth studies", 2) "Genetic and environmental factors", 3) "Population differences in growth" and 4) "Biological aspects of growth". It should be added that not every chapter will be of interest or even comprehensible to every reader. A number of the subjects deal with a particular aspect of growth or development of one population group and delve into topics of growth modelling with all the equations that this entails. The uninitiated will find these chapters much too esoteric. However, a number of the subjects make fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in the study of human growth. For example, one of the chapters by L.D. Voss presents a historical review of the measurement of human growth, revealing how the measurement of human beings has been a common activity, particularly as the society developed.

The origins of this publication are described in the foreword by J.M. Tanner. In 1969, Dr Das from the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta had sent to him, unsolicited, the offer of 14 years of longitudinal anthropometric data that he had collected on 560 children in two locations near Calcutta. The reason for this offer was that Dr Das was very sick and was convinced he would not survive to analyze these data. Prof. Tanner could not refuse, although he was not able to find the time to devote attention to this vast data set (which had arrived in several boxes and consisted of the originally transcribed data sheets) until Roland Hauspie arrived in the United Kingdom from Brussels for a one-year fellowship. In the mean time Dr Das had recovered, and he and Dr Hauspie formed a partnership to analyse this Sarsuna-Barisha Growth Study data. This study is reported in the book in a chapter by Drs Hauspie and Dasgupta.

Emanating from the book is the respect felt towards Dr Das, the father of Indian Auxology. In particular, it is a respect for values that are slowly slipping away in research and academia and for which funding can be secured. Vigilant data collection (in the case of Prof. Das, he himself conducted every measurement at Sarsuna-Barisha over the 14 years), unassuming scholarship with no attempts at showmanship and a willingness to share all his raw data with other researchers. Perhaps these values are the most important message coming from this publication.

Robert Weisell
FAO Nutrition Planning,
Assessment and Evaluation Service

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