Monday 25 March 2024


This is a photograph of Professor, later Sir John Burton Cleland, taken at the Adelaide Railway Station while heading off on a field trip in 1934.

In this post, we examine how we might extract information from this photograph and use it to establish a reasonable estimate of the height of Professor Cleland and from that point, establish an estimated height of the Somerton Man.

The thought on how we might achieve the goal of establishing a height from this photograph came from this excerpt from the document known as 'Cleland's notes', I will include a download link for the notes later in this post  I should point out that the notes are not the full copy some parts of it have been removed before it was made available.

Here's the excerpt:

This paragraph tells us that the jacket worn by the Somerton Man on the day his body was found indicates that it fitted Professor Cleland, except for it being tight to button up.

For that jacket to fit Professor Cleland, indicates that both men were the same or very similar height.


To calculate the sizes of objects or people from within an image, we must have an object or objects of known dimensions within that image. In that regard, this particular photograph has several objects that could fulfill that role.

In this standard-sized image, 8 " X 10" as per the file on SA State Library, I have marked several objects that we can measure and use that photo measurement to calculate the approximate height of Sir John.

In the calculations, the final output variance is +/- 1 inch

Here's the objects list:

From the top:

  • The face height, the known median height of a face as in the point central to the left and right eye to the point of the chin is 120mm.
  • The strap attached to the pouch is estimated at .5 inches in width
  • A wider strap attached to the canvas shoulder bag is estimated to be 1 inch wide. (I measured the two and the narrow strap is one-half the width of the wider one)
  • The binocular case is an unknown dimension
  • The small leather pouch I estimate to be 6 inches wide. ( I used the narrow leather strap to gauge this dimension)
  • To the right of Sir John, we see a luggage ticket attached to the canvas bag, the estimated width is 4.5 inches plus the header element of .5 inches.
  • In Sir John's hand, a second luggage ticket lies flat on the rectangular carry case.
  • The rectangular carry or instrument case is by my estimation and some calculation based on the other objects, 7.5 inches wide by 15 inches deep. ( the width is one-half of the height of the case)
  • I looked at the ladies' shoes as a possibility but the image is not sharp and they are at a slight angle which adds complexity and therefore additional room for error. Similarly for Sir John's shoes.
  • The buttons on Sir John's cardigan and on the sleeve of his jacket need to be more specific for our purpose.
  • With great respect to the late Sir John, you note that he has a middle-age spread, this may explain the issue of the SM jacket being difficult to button.

I have used the instrument case as the base known object.

Median Height information, head height: 225 mm. Full height ratio is 1:8. + - 8 mm

JBC Measured full height on photograph + 208 mm ( Allowance made for shoe heel height)

JBC Measured face height = 15 mm  

The instrument case estimated known object height =15 inches or 381mm The object measured height on the photograph = 45 mm. Ratio 1:8.5. 

Using the instrument case example, JBC full height = 208mm X 8.5 = 1768 mm or 5 Feet 9.5 inches +/- 1 inch.



  1. For the recent commenter. No, it does not prove conclusively that Webb was the Somerton Man. The height range based on the assumptions that the jacket that Professor Cleland tried on, firstly was that the jacket that the Somerton Man wore and secondly that when the Professor said, ‘Came down on the hand…,’ how far that was. The height range is between 5 feet 8 and a half inch and 5 feet 10 and a half inches and that is based on the estimations I have made regarding the instrument case. What if my estimation was out by an inch or more? Because it could be.
    I have another set of images with known height objects within them that give a different story, the upper height estimate being 5 feet 11 and a half inches and the lower 5 feet 10 and a half inches.
    It doesn’t stop there, the dental chart is a major issue and the DNA presented by Professor Abbot, as far as I am aware has yet to be confirmed as being from the exhumed remains.
    It would not surprise me if there were over 100 candidates for being the Somerton Man which interprets to a mountain of detailed evidence to be examined. I certainly don’t have all the information no more than you do.
    This is the world of evidence, in most cases the Police are dealing with the freedom or reputations of people. They cannot make their decisions based on assumptions or estimates, there needs to be sound and compelling evidence and it must be thoroughly substantiated.
    My unsolicited advice is that you take a breath and wait patiently for the Coroner to announce his findings on just who the Somerton Man was and that is if he is able to do so.

  2. Where did you get the measurement of the case from? It doesn’t look like a common one, haven’t found one similar.

  3. Agreed, I looked for and couldn’t find an exact photo of the case, one or two similar. To get the measurement, I noticed that the case lies half way above and halfway below the Professor’s knee. From there used an 18 inch ruler on my right leg and estimated what I thought was the depth of 15 inches for the case. The width was arrived at by using the ruler and noting that the width was half the depth,.
    I know you didn’t ask this but when it came to the luggage ticket I again used the case dimension and also a little research on paper qualities/widths. The A4, A3 etc sizes were introduced to Australia in 1975 and prior to that you’ll find that most small scale printers used quarto sized bulk paper and cut their standard sizes from them ready for printing. Quarto is 30 inches X 40 inches. We still get many quarto based sizes today, think in terms of 6 x 4 and 12 x 8 for photos and flyers. That’s where I estimated the 5 inch luggage tag, I had previously thought 6 inches for the tag but I checked that out. The rule is that print sizes are generally but not always divisible by 6 and/or 4.
    Thanks for your question, I hope it’s useful for you.

  4. GC, I printed out the photo of the Prof to an 8 X 10 and I made the case to be 44 mm on the photo and the Profs height on the photo was 209 mm that's without the shoe heel height added in. The formulae is Profs height of 209 mm divided by Case height of 44 mm = 4.73 and then X 15 inches. and the answer is 70.95 inches. The Professors height according to the photograph and based on a case height of 15 inches is 5 feet 11 inches. That then equates to the height of the SM. Hooray!

  5. Well Done! I've checked that out and you're exactly right. The Prof according to the photo and the case measurements must be 5 feet 11 inches tall. That confirms his comment in the notes that the Somerton Man's jacket was a fit in the sleeves meaning he was the same height but the jacket was tight around the chest. We need to somehow substantiate the information and I think that has to be by someone having a record of the Profs height, if we get that confirmation then that's the time to celebrate :)

    For anyone interested you can download the Professor's photograph, print it out to an 8 inch X 10 inch size and at reasonable quality using 400 DPI print resolution. That way you can check the dimensions for yourself.

  6. There is a post dating back to 2014 originally and then again in 2022. You'll see a range of interesting tools in the post bearing some similarities to the tools in the SM suitcase. You will see a photo of a man named Ernest Frank Michaelson. Here's the link:

    1. Have added another photo on this page, it is a comparison image of the pre burial photograph and Ernest Frank Gransgog, both arrived at the same time from Finland and apparently one of them went missing but which one?

  7. Me again. I took the measurement of the luggage ticket at 5 inches, there is one of the tickets lying flat on the top of the case, and a bit of string attached to the handle. Making allowance for the string that means there are two 5 inch tickets across the top of the case making that dimension 10 inches. When you measure the depth of the case on the photo it's 44 mm + a little and the top of the case measured on the photo is 30 mm. A ratio near as damn it is 1:1.5 or 10 inches by 15 inches. So when you divide the Profs height of 209 mm by the case depth of 44 mm you get 4.75. Now multiply that by the 15 inch depth and you get 71.25 inches or 5.94 feet. Make a li\ttle allowance and there it is, 5 feet 11 inches.
    You're right though, it needs confirmation of the Profs formally recorded height from somewhere. passport?

  8. That’s a good explanation and it looks positive. I think the case measurement at 10 inches wide X 15 inch depth is right the questions that remain include the recorded height for Professor Cleland.
    I found a men’s clothing size chart that relates sleeve length to body height. Here’s the link:

    It means taking the photo measurement of the arm and processing that measurement as a guide to body height.

  9. So, if he was standing with shoes on he would’ve been 6’1, yeah 5’8 Carl Webb is a huge discrepancy..

    1. I would think, based on the dimensions we have, the Professors height would be somewhere between 5 ‘10” and 6 feet. Whilst it’s thought that Carl Webb was the same height as his brother as in 5’8”, there is no record that’s been made available to formally confirm it.
      Similarly, there is no written evidence of the SMs height being formally recorded, lots of newspaper articles but only two specific mentions in documents and of course the words of Professor Cleland which infers that he was around the same height as the SM but again whilst we can show some calculations, we do not have a firm record of the Professors height. Evidence should be precise whenever possible. If it’s not precise nor substantiated it is of less value.

    2. His stature says that he's short (comment lightly modified)
      It's the height to width of a person
      He's around 5'8"

    3. I modified the last comment and entered under my name. Happy to discuss the issue of gauging height from a photograph, it’s not as easy as it looks. Bear in mind that the information has to be precise.
      The only practical way you can do it is to have an object in the photograph which has a known dimension. In this instance we have the luggage ticket, standard size is 5 inches but I am verifying that with SAR at the moment. Given that the size of the ticket is correct, we can now measure it in millimetres and set it against the width of the instrument case being carried by the Professor. That exercise shows that the ticket length is half the width of the case, making the case 10 inches wide.. The next step is to gauge the depth of the case which is 1.5 times the width or 15 inches which equals 44mm when measured on the photograph. We then measure the Professors height in mm on the photograph which equals 209 mm.
      So to get the Professor’s actual height we divide the 209 by 44 and then multiply the 15 inch depth by that number. In this case we get 5 feet 11 inches.having made an allowance for the height of his shoe.
      I understand why you put forward your view but it truly is not a straight forward exercise.
      SAPOL may provide some clearer information on this issue. You could be right and he might be 2 inches shorter in which case I’ll acknowledge it but as things stand at the moment the calculations put him at 5’11.
      The anticipated announcement should be happening soon, will it be a confirmation of Professor Abbott’s DNA claims or will it be curve ball that’s thrown that takes everyone by surprise? We’ll have to wait and see.

    4. I have seen your latest comment, you need to read up on photogrammetry. You cannot just assume the height of the woman next to the Prof and then move her forward, it simply is wrong as are your assumptions. No further comments please.

  10. An interesting update. I have followed up with SA Rail museum and they very kindly looked at thi=eir information on tickets at the time, they found two sizes, one was quite small and a tear off portion and the other normal luggage ticket was 134 mm X 68mm. The length of 134mm is a smidgeon over 5 inches, 5.275 to be exact. Will spend more time on this but it looks like the Professor was 5 feet 11 inches tall at this stage. The SM jacket was a fit for the sleeves which suggests that he was close to the same height as Professor Cleland. We still need that additional confirmation as to the Professors height. After that I suggest that we look at the issue of sleeve length to ensure that it is a good indicator of the height of the Somerton Man.

  11. Asked BING a question about posing people of different heights so as to make them look the same height. Over to you:

    In a photograph, when a man who is 5 feet 9 inches tall stands next to a woman who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, we can use some clever posing techniques to create the illusion that they are of the same height. Here are a few strategies:

    Wide Stance: The taller subject (the man) can take a very wide stance with a gap of at least two feet (or more) between their feet. This forces the taller subject to drop down in height by a couple of inches. The key is to ensure that the camera cannot see the part between the taller subject’s legs.
    Behind and Around: Another common pose is to have the taller subject stand behind the shorter one with arms around the waist. Again, using a wide stance for the taller subject helps. The key remains hiding the area between the taller subject’s legs.
    Tilt the Camera: If you’re capturing candid moments or when the couple is walking, tilt the camera slightly in the direction of the taller subject. This creates the illusion that the height difference is not as severe. Be mindful of the composition—avoid strong horizontal or vertical lines that might disrupt this effect.
    Use the Environment: Utilize objects in the environment to balance the height difference. For instance:
    Seating: Have the taller subject sit on a chair or park bench while the shorter one stands.
    Street Curbs or Stairs: Use everyday objects like curbs, staircases, or natural inclines to make the shorter subject appear taller.

    Recxkon that's how they took the Webb Family Pic, taller bloke at the back, feet apart?

  12. That's interesting, so if Carl was taller than Roy, he could simply have stood with his feet apart and then he would be the same height as Roy. Now add that to the earlier question regarding the Somerton Man's height as in there is no record of anyone having measured him and that gives an entirely different perspective. Still have the issue of the ear shape though, quite pronounced.

  13. For those wanting to learn how you can gauge dimensions within a photograph, here's a link that takes you through the process. You will see that it needs to have a reference point within the photograph, something that has a known size and from that you can create a scale. It is not as simple as moving an obk\ject or a person around the photograph:

    1. I know you don’t really post rumors, but I read somewhere that SAPOL confirmed that Exumed body,ISNT carl Webb!!

  14. Do you know if the ruling is true?? It’s me from the comment before. I’m just asking because I read it on tomsbytwo!, the guy who wrote it seems credible.

  15. What's the date? The word 'credible' used in the same sentence as that particular blog is something of an oxymoron.

  16. Today, at 9:30 am Australian time, I’m the US.

  17. Thanks, it's April 1st here...

    1. The person who wrote the statement did so on March the 29th on CM, but it was a different person, the other guy just copied what he said.

    2. Took screen grabs, it was first posted on the bowes blog on 28th March, copied by Sanders at CM and posted on 29th March. Bowes removed it the following day.

    3. Thanks for the screen grabs. No big surprise, the sad thing is that the person who is claimed to have passed it on could be at risk of losing their job over it. There are some you can trust and others you shouldn't.

    4. Copy below, Sanders posted 7.29 am and mentions that it came from bowes:
      "John Sanders
      on March 29, 2024 at 7:29 am said:
      Sapol media tentatively affirms exhumed body isn’t that of Carl Webb and so SM remains known but to God; the long awaited news courtesy of insider Peter Bowes at tbt. Whether to believe or not, the ‘Sine die’ adjournment verdict stands and Carl Webb FB supporters can be comforted in knowledge that “we the few” will be left to clean up the awful mess they’ve left behind. Thanks ladies!"

  18. I have to rework the full height measurement. On reviewing the photo I noticed that Professor Clelands is smiling. When a person smiles the jaw/chin drops by a few millimeters and that increases the head height. Bear in mind that we multiply the head height by eight or close to that to arrive at the estimated full height. That can make a significant difference of an inch or more depending
    on the factor so if it is X 8 that’s one answer if it’s less that’s another, I don’t think the factor will be any more than eight.


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