1938: Nudists vs. Scientists

What was the greatest threat for the civilized world in the 1930s? You would be mistaken, if you think about nazism. Actually, it was nudism, at least for someone.

Three hundred thousand men, women, and children, in America alone, are nudists,’ informs Edwin Teale in the article which appeared in the POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY, February, 1938 (pp. 70-71, 126). The author of the article, entitled Science studies the Nudists, points out that the followers of the “back-to-Eden” cult report that, during one ten-month period, members increased at the rate of 10,000 a month. And now America is facing as many as 400 camps, scattered from coast to coast maintained by the faddists for nude sun bathing.

Science studies the Nudists

Science studies the Nudists

The author presumably decided to cut the ground from under the nudist movement and asked: ‘Does nakedness really benefit health? Are the claims of the nudists justified?’ Then he slightly reformulated the question: ‘Can our bodies, if given a chance, inure themselves to cold and inclement weather?’ It was implied that the enthusiasts of the new cult, beyond all doubt, would give a positive answer.

Fortunately, two New York research workers, Dr. Eugene F. DuBois and Dr. James D. Hardy, were already able to give a real scientific answer to the question. In the 1930s they have concluded a long series of tests at the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology to determine how the body regulates its temperature. These heroic men of science spent hours, with clothes removed, sealed in the copper vault of a supersensitive, $10,000 heat-measuring chamber called a clinical calorimeter. Edwin Teale was deeply impressed by this immense apparatus running ice water and high-resistance electric wires balance heat and cold, at the will of an operator. Here is an extract from his article:

During the DuBois-Hardy tests, the scientists have tackled such problems as how the nude body reacts to different temperatures, how efficient human flesh is as an insulating medium, when shivering begins, and whether a fat man can withstand cold better than a thin one. They remained nude in the sealed chamber of the calorimeter at temperatures that ranged from ninety-six to seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit.

The experimentalists accumulated data and reported results:

1. Human flesh is as efficient as an insulating medium against cold as is paper, leather, asbestos, or cork.
2. There is only a small difference between fat and thin persons in their ability to withstand cold for long periods.
3. A quiet subject, without the protection of clothing, will begin to shiver at a surprisingly high temperature, eighty-three degrees Fahrenheit (28° Celsius), approximately ten degrees higher than the average room temperature in a furnace-heated home.

The researchers thus provided a scientific basis for judging some of the claims of nudism.

Without the protection of clothing, the motionless human system is constitutionally unfitted to cope with cold. Only in lands where the temperature never drops below eighty-three degrees, can nudists live in comfort.

For physical reasons, if for no others, man seems destined to continue as the animal that wears clothes,” concluded the author of the article from the 1930s. Nudism was doomed. And who would disagree with that?

Health and Joy

Health and Joy

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