Approximately 18,000 nude photographs of Harvard undergraduates were stored in Widener Library at least through the summer of 1963.
Frederica E. Sigel says that she and three other teenage women were hired by the School of Public Health to sort the photos.
The duties of the job included linking body measurements to cause of death, Sigel says.
"We had everybody's every measurement and we sorted them by various categories, including cause of death, to be put on punch cards," Sigil says.
"The duties of the job weren't as remarkable as what we were looking at," she says. "We had all these photos of the Herters, the Salton-stalls, and I think there were some Roosevelts."
Sigel says that although the novelty of the job wore off after the first week, a "unique measurement" would appear every now and then.
"We would pass the photo around," Sigel said. "We were of an age where we didn't have access to 18,000 naked men, this was an exciting job for and adolescent to have," she says. "It put a whole different spin on dating."
On her last day on the job, Sigel says her employers took her to the School of Public Health to see the computer that tabulated the data from the cards she sorted. Sigel describes a machine similar to the Harvard Somatotyper which Sheldon used to transform bodily measurements into somatotypes.
Today, most identifiable photos are reported to have been destroyed.
Sheldon, the main academic advocate of somatotyping, grew up in rural Rhode Island. His father, a naturalist, judged county animal fairs and taught Sheldon how to classify living things, says Ellery Lanier, a former protege.
The task of classifying animals eventually led Sheldon to develop a system of evaluating human body types.
Evidence of Sheldon's naturalist upbringing is said to be evident in his work--Atlas of Men, a coffee-table tome featuring hundreds of nude photos of the various somatotypes. The volume also contains epigraphs linking the different body types with animals.
The chapter describing extreme ectomorphy bears the title "Stingless Mosquitoes." Sheldon describes the lankiest men as "little male mosquitoes, frail waifs of the night air."