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The Dynamics of Boxing

Author(s): R. Meade Bache


Source: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 33, No. 145 (Jun., 1894), pp.
179-187
Published by: American Philosophical Society
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1894.1

179

[Bache.

He was also a memberof the AmericanSocietyof Civil Engineers; of


theRensselaerSocietyofEngineers,and oftheEngineers'Club ofPhiladelphia,of whichhe was a Past President.
In 1892he delivereda courseof lectureson railroadsat the Rensselaer
PolytechnicInstitute,in whichlheconductedthe studentsthroughthe
actual surveysand calculationsof the work.
In 1880 he publisheda work on Railroad Engineers' Practice, which
has gone throughseveraleditions.
Mr. Cleemanwas a thoroughly
experiencedengineer,cautious,intelligentand originalin his analysisof theoretical
problems,as well as in the
executionof engineeringwork. He was carefulto firstascertainthat
any work he undertookwas theoretically
correctbeforecarryingit out.
His grasp of theoreticalsubjects was so great that it enabled him to
choose wise proximatemethods. A friendly
critic,he was also a keen
one, and hiis views were generallycorrect. He did not hesitateto
expresshlisopinionon all subjectspertaining
to his profession,
but never
insistedon theacceptanceof his view by others; norhad he any of that
selfishpushand conceitedmannerwhichso oftenmeetswithundeserved
success. A refined,
cultured,courtlygentleman,he was entirely
unselfish,
modestand retiring. His firstthoughtwas always of others,neverof
himself. He was the lightof a large circleof friends,as well as of his
family.
His deatlhhas causeda lheartfelt
sorrowand senseof loss, not onlyin
thefamilycirclewlherehis sweetnatureand gentlemannerswill always
be missed,but amongstthe large numberof warmand sincerefriends,
who also lovedand honoredhim

The Dynamics of Boxing.


By R. MeadMeBache.
(Read beforeIhe American Philosophical Society,May 4, z894.)
The fact that a certain statementlately appearing in the daily
press obtained circulation proves how great the general ignorance
of some simple physical laws still is. This statementwas to the
effectthat Sandow, " the strong man," is able to strikea blow of
3000 pouinds,could break an arm with its impact, and intends to
studyboxing so as to defeat Corbett. A fewobservations,therefore,as to the fundamentallaws connected with the subject of the
possible degree of the deployment of muscular force by human
beings in the act of striking a blow will not be out of place for

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Bache.]

180

[May 4,

popular instruction. I do not, of course, presumeto instructmembers of this Society as to these laws, with which theyare conversant, but the higher instructionis like head of water, whence the
waterflowsto and filtersthrough lower levels. Besides, beyond
the mere restatementhere of the laws to which I refer,lies matter
with which I think that not even the majorityof the members of
this Societyare conversant. These reasons form,in sum,myexplanation forintroducingthis particularsubject to the Society.
The momentum,as you are aware, with which a body, falling freelynear the surface of the earth, strikes, varies with the
latitude, or otherwiseexpressed,with the distance of a given place
fromthe centre of the earth, which, owing to the configurationof
the earth, corresponds with the latitude. But, for general purprecise for this, the distance, in the
poses, and quite sufficiently
firstsecond, which a freebody falls, near the surfaceof the earth,
froma state of rest, is accepted as i6. i feet,and the velocitywhich
it has acquired by the end of that space and at the terminationof
that time, as twice I6.I feet,or 32.2 feetin thatsecond.
The diagram on the blackboard illustratesclearly the effectupon
a body moving forone second under the influenceof gravity. To
understand,then,what follows,it will onlybe necessaryto observe,
by referringto the diagram, that the successive spaces traveled by
the fallingmass representthe squares of intervals,whetherof space
or time, and also that,althoughthe maximumspace traversedin a
firstsecond of fallis only i 6. i feet,yetthat,correspondinglywiththe
smallerspaces and the inclusive one (all squares of space or time),
the acquired velocitydoubles continuously,being, instead of i6. i
feet,32.2 feetin the second, by the time thatit has reached the end
of the firstsecond of fall. The diagram fullyexhibits the law of
both relativespaces and relativetimesconcerned in the phenomenon. If the firstunit of horizontal space on the diagram, onefourth,be taken as a unit of time, then its square will representthe
value of the correspondingdistance of fall. This is i foot, with
acquired velocityof 8 feet. For successiveunitsof time,-if a mass
fallsin i second, as it does, i6. I feet,thenin 2 seconds it falls i6. i
feetmultipliedby 2 squared. It falls in 3 seconds i6. i feetmultiplied by 3 squared, and in 4 seconds i6. i feetmultiplied by 4
squared, and so forth.
Could a soap-bubble move with the velocity of the swiftestcannon-ball, it would injure nothing that it mightstrike,while the

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181

1894]

[Bache.

seeminglyalmost spent cannon-ball has more than once shorn off


human limbs as thoughtheyhad presented no more obstacle than

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0~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~I4

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thistle-down. Suppose now, that a mnanweighing I 9o pounds


(about the maximumweighteffectivein the ring) should fall, as a

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Bache.]

182

[May 4,

body fallingfreelynear the surfaceof the earth, forthe distance of


i6.i
feet. As the moving energy of his mass would be compounded of the mass multiplied by the velocity with which it
travels, it would follow that the shock at the end of i6.i feet
(which would take place in a second) would possess the momentum
representedby multiplyingI90 pounds by 32.2, or 6iI8 pounds.
One, therefore,perceives fromthe diagram that if, fora weightof
I90

pounds,a momentum
of onlyabouttwice3000 poundsis gen-

erated by gravityin a second, with a velocitytwice as great as a


boxer's blow (as it would be, if the velocity of the boxer's blow at
the rate of four feet in a quarter of a second be here correctly
rated), it is already demonstratedthat a man of 190 pounds could
not strike a blow of 3000 pounds, unless he could put his whole
weiglhtinto it, whell, for4 feet,at tlhe rate indicated, it would be
190
pounds multiplied by i6, or 3040 pounds; and putting his
whole weightinto it is impossible. But it is worthwhile to pursue
the subject a little furtlher.
Rememberingwhat has just been remarkedas to the momentum
generatedby the fall of a mass of I90 pounds during the firstsecond of time froma stateof rest,we mustnow, in order to makesafe
comparisonsbetween conditions that are only analogous, not identical, begin by recognizing formallythe fact that a man cannot
deliver a blow involvingthe conditionsof deliveryin a second, over
a distance of i6. i feet,and with an acquired velocity of 32.2 feet.
The distance concerned, to say nothing of the otherdifferences,
precludes direct comparisonbetween the rate of the man striking
and the rate due to gravity. We mustthereforeinstitutethe comparison and come to a conclusion indirectly. The longest distance
over which a tall man can deliver his average blow is about 4 feet.
A man with abnormally long reach, like the present boxer,
Jackson's, can deliver it over 4.5 feetwithoutchanging his footing.
If a man delivers it 4 feetin a quarterof a second (and this I think
fromobservationthe best boxer can do), he delivers it with the
velocitywith which gravitywould have affectedany mass in the
firstsecond of time froma state of rest, that is, with a velocity of
8 feetforthe half second, or i 6 feetper second.
If a boxer strikesfourfeet in a quarterof a second, of course he
strikes at the rate of 8 feet in half a second, that is to say, he
strikeswith the same velocityas that due to acceleration fromgravity duringhalf a second. There is, however,in this case, no ques-

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1894.]

183

[Bache.

tion of acquired velocity,or what is otherwise known as acceleration, due to terrestrialgravity. I am merelyputtingthe two equials,
as derived fromdifferentsources of power, in juxtaposition,so as
to compare and contrast themwith each other,and thus to bring
clearly before the mind that it is not likely that any boxer's blow
can have a speed essentiallygreater than that representedby the
acceleration due to gravityin half a second, or, in otherwords, the
rate of i6 feetper second. Terrestrialgravitywould, as indicated,
have nothingto do with the forceof the resultantblow. The blow
being horizontal,the force of gravitywith relation to it would be
virtuallynil. The statementhere is limited strictlyto the fact that
if the boxer can strike4 feetin a quarterof a second, he can strike
that distance with the momentumthat would be generated by gravity in one-half of a second, acting on any mass subjected to it from
a state of rest.
The factmustbe kept constantlyin view that mass and velocity
combined make momentuim. With enormous weight and great
slowness,the effectproduced is not of the natureof a blow, but that
of a push. With great velocity and minuteweight,the blow produced is slight. WVithboth great weight and great velocity,the
blow becomes tremendous. Here it is well to add that the popular
notion of the amount of his weightthat a man can put into a push
or a blow is highlyerroneous. Mechanical engineers,who are continuallyobliged to make computationsfor the deploymentof the
forceof pushingon capstan-barsfor drawbridgesand otherplaces,
know that,unless thereare cleats on the ground fromwhich the feet
can obtain some purchase,from15 to 20 pounds is about the proper
amount to allow forthe push of a man workingunder those conditions. The question thereforeremains open in every individual
case, unless instrumentally
settled,as to what proportionof the mass
of the boxer of I90 pounds entersinto his blow, and this, withdifferentmen, varies as well as the speed. But supposing,forthe sake
of argumentand demonstration,what has alreadybeen rejected,that
the whole weightof the man enters into the blow, its momentuim
for 4 feet, at the rate indicated, would be representedby I90
pounds multiplied by i6, or the rate of speed, at the half-second
point, due to the forceof gravityfora firstsecond, and would be,
as already noted, 3040 pounds. A man cannot,however,as already
stated, put his whole mass into a blow, because he cannot, by any
muscular effortwhatsoever,move freelyin space. The indispenPROC. AMER. PHILOS. soc. XXXIII. 145. X.

PRINTED MAY 26, 1894.

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Bache.]

181

[May 4,

sable condition of his being able to deliver an effectiveblow is that


he shall be, as to his feet,poised on the surface of the earth. So
unless, by means of electrical recording apparatus, we determine
the speed of a blow, and, by means of a dynamometer,determine
the movingenergyof it, and deduct one value fromthe other,we
cannot ascertainhow much of the effectivenessof a blow is owing
to the weight of the human body throwninto it, and how much is
derived froma speed which involvesthe whole person-hand, arm,
and trunk.
It would follow,from all the evidence at my command, that if
the speed of a blow of fourfeetbe a quarterof a second, a man of
even Igo pounds in weightcannot followup, so as to make effective
in his blow, with more than 32 pounds (in round numbers,a sixth
of his weight) with velocity equal to free movement of fall of a
mass forthe firsthalf-second,froma state of rest,above the surface
of the earth. Barrett, the late well-known teacher of boxing in
Philadelphia, a man of undoubted veracity,as highlyesteemed in
his day and limited sphere as was, at the beginning of this century, in a more extended one, Gentleman Jackson, of England,
Byron's boxing master,once told me as remarkable that he knew
a man who could strike 500 pounds. This meant, of course, as
tested by a dynamometer. If then, in fine,the time of a boxer's
blow be a quarter of a second, the length 4 feet (which would
make, as already remarked,the rate the same as that due to the
effectof gravityon a mass in the firsthalf second, fallen froma
it be
state of rest), and the proportionof his weight accomnpanying
32 pounds, he would strikewith the momentumrepresentedby 32
pounds multipliedby i6, or 512 pounds. This momentum,if the
reader experienced in boxing will consider the speed here ascribed
evidence deto the blow of the finestboxer, and the confirmatory
rived fromthe statementof Barrett, would seem to be very near
the mark. No one will be likelyto maintain,afterwhat has been
said, the possibilityof strikingan effectiveblow of 4 feetin length
in less than a quarterof a second; or that, of the weightof a man
of i90 pounds, more than 32 of them can be put into a blow correspondingwith the rate of i6 feetper second.
Up to the point we have reachedthe conclusionsdrawnwerepartly
dependent upon an estimatedvelocityof blow, derivedfromobservation, not experiment. But a friendhaving remindednie that,among
Mr. Muybridge's series of photograplhsof movementsof man and

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1891.]

185

[Bache.

the lower animals is one illustratingthe speed of a blow, the examination of it which has followedhas led to a remarkableconfirmation of the preceding estimate of speed. Plate No. 333 of the
Muybridge series representsthe phases of a knockdownblow, including the effects,until the person struckis prone on his back on
a mattress. The intervals between the photographic phases is
ninety-sixone-thousandthsof a second. Three successive phasepictures,thusvirtuallytaken one-tenthof a second apart, represent
the blow fromstartto finish. In the first,the strikingarm is drawnl
back and startingfromits point of departure. In the second, the
arm is seen projectingabout half way betweentheboxing opponents.
In the thirdand last phase of the blow the fistof the strikerlands
on his opponent. The intervalbetween the firstand second phase
having been virtuallyone-tenthof a second, and that between the
second and thirdalso one-tenthof a second, the blow was therefore
delivered in virtuallyone-fifth
of a second. Measurementson the
pictures giving the successive phases showrthat the lengthof the
blow from startto finishwas 38 inches. Here we have the rate of
of a second. We have previously used the
38 inches in one-fifth
estimated rate of 48 inches in one-fourthof a second. The data
derived, on the one hand, fromobservation,and that,on the other,
fromexperiment,coincide withina small fraction-within half an
inch.
It is open to observation that boxers who make theirliving by
ring-fightingcarefully conceal from the public, knowledge of the
momentumwith which theycan strike,althoughthiscould be easily
and safely obtained, and probably oftenis, with the glove and dynamometer. In the ring, as in many other instancesin which all
seems physical to the casual observer,moral elementsenter. The
dangerousness of the man whose exact moving energyof blow is
known, is to a certain extent discounted, so potent is the imagina.
tion in the affairsof men. Professional fightersknow, as well as
everyone else does, that everythingunknownseems mnagnificent.
The element of quickness in a boxer, in addition to courage,
skill, strength,weight,and endurance is indispensable. In the case
of such men as Sandow, muscles have been trained by workso ponderous that theydo not respond to the will forelastic, quick movemiients. Men like him cannot put the same speed into theirblows
as can men trained as Corbett has been, nor can theyput theweight
of theirbodies as effectively
into theirblows as men can who have

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Bache.J

186

[May4,

been trainedforstrong,lithe movements. Consequently,the blows


of such men, no matterhow heavy the men are, have less power
than those of men trainedas boxers. So farfromSandow's being
able in the ring with Corbett to break his arm or otherwisedisable
him, he would probablynot hit Corbetta single blow, or if he did,
of his opponent's,because
not one that would have the effectiveness
it would lack the speed and accompanying weiglhtthrown into his
by a boxer endowed with a rare combination of height, strength,
weight, and reach, supplemented by agility marvelous for a large
man, trainedby life-practiceto highestexcellence withinhis sphere,
and all crowned by the habits which promote endurance.
We should rejoice that we live in an age remotefromthe false
sentimentof some formertimes,an age of revivedphysical culture,
when it is possible to bestowundisguisedadmirationon physical excellence of any kind, in its sphere as fineas moral worth,of which
it is in some subtleway even now partiallyemblematical,to become,
mayhap, in the course of time, throughmore general observanceof
the laws of nature,wholly identifiedwith it, and indivisible in attributes. Within our own time is observable a great advance in
obedience to those laws. It should be evident that the almost universal admiration for physical developmnentand prowess is not
whollyderived fromthe combative quality of mankind,but has its
root deeper in human nature,in the general interestin the health
and welfareof the species. If, however,it be needed thatthe combative manifestationof naturebe sustained on moral grounds,then
is its defenseeasy. Inasmuch as the presentstage of development
is conditioned in almost everysphere of animal life on self-defense,
self-preservationbeing still the firstlaw of nature, all teachings
which tend to suppressamong men any resortto the ultima ratio of
theirkind, tend also to transformtheirmeans of defenseexclusively
into the meanermodes of securingit, into the adoption, to that inevitable end, of cunning and treachery,and the swarm of the
meaner vices, sapping the noble elements of their nature,which
own
must go hand and hand and stand or fall together. For mny
part, I candidly avow that my observationof life fromboyhood onhistory,and fromnotward,derivedfrompersonal experience, fromn
me to believe that,
has
led
in
the
era,
racial
tendencies
present
ing
with reprobation and repression of physical force, as potential,
and therefore,if need arise, actual, in matterforwhich law offers
no protection, nor ever will or can, mustinevitablygo various un-

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1894.]

187

[Briiiton.

derhandedness in the conduct of life. I firmlybelieve that those


nations which cultivatephysical developmentby countenancingand
promoting athletic sports and contests,withdue regard to the exclusion of the cowardliness of brutality,will ever possess in their
citizens, as compared with those of other nations differently
prompted through race, or differentlycontrolled by law or dominant public sentiment, a greater proportion than the others of
those inspired by independence of character,honor, and disposition to fairnessas between man and man, constitutingthem relatively the more stalwartlovers and defendersof the rightin every
form.

OsitfuatyNotice of George de Benneville Keimn.


By D. G. Brin/on,M.D.
(Read beforethe American Philosophical Society,May 4, I6994.)
,rhose who have had a reasonablylong and intimate knowledge
of men musthave observed that among the individuals prominent
in the active affairsof the day there are two classes-the one,
of such as are whollyabsorbed in theirdaily pursuits,whose natures
are, to use a simile of Shakespeare's, " subdued to what theywork
in, like the dyer's hands "-the other, who, however compulsive
and harassingtheiravocations, retainan individual and independent freshnessof personality,often strangelyin contrast with the
requirementsof theirworkinghours.
Distinctlyto the latterclass belonged our late member,George
de Benneville Keim; and all who enjoyed his friendshipwill agree
that an appreciationof his career would be imperfectwhich failed
to presentthese two aspects of his character. I shall begin with
that in which he was familiarto the world in general, and then I
shall saya fewwords about him, as he was known to his friendsand
near associates.
Mr. Keim was a descendant in the sixth generation of Johann
Keim, a memberof the Society of Friends, who emigratedfromthe
Rhenish Palatinate to the colony of Penn, and settled at Oley,
Berks county, in I 704.
The grandsoniof this Quaker emigrant
was General George de Benneville Keim, an officerof note in the

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