A 'Napoleon Complex' is a layman’s term to describe the alleged propensity of short men to over-compensate for their stature by being abnormally domineering. Leaving aside the fact that Napoleon himself wasn’t particularly short (as covered in the 'Napoleon' box), the very existence of the phenomenon is questionable. Various studies have failed to find significant differences in personality function which can be attributed to height, except in one area: short men do appear to be more prone to sexual jealousy than tall ones.
On the other hand, 'heightism' does certainly exist: short people are paid less (on average) than tall people. The disparity is comparable in magnitude to race and gender gaps. A survey of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs showed that 90% of them were above average height, while 30% were over 6ft2 (i.e. in the tallest 4% of the population). Globally, taller people are also measurably more intelligent (again, on average) than shorter ones – although this can be explained in terms of nutrition. Greater intelligence and height are both, apparently, consequences of better nutrition.
As for politicians, there are some quite striking statistics from US Presidential elections. Of the first 54 contests, only 13 (24%) were won by the shorter candidate. In non-electoral situations, it is true to say that a number of dictators have been quite short: Mussolini was 5ft 6, Stalin 5ft 5, Franco 5ft 4, Khrushchev and Kim Jong Il 5ft 3, and Deng Xiaoping 5ft 0. But Napoleon (5ft 7) and Hitler (5ft 8) were about average for their time and place. Idi Amin was 6ft 4, Fidel Castro is 6ft 1, and Mao was 5ft 9 (i.e. rather tall for a Chinese person).
Oftimes, a very small man can cast a very large shadow.
Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit the earth, was only 5 feet and 2 inches tall.
The widespread misconception that Napoleon (1769-1821) was short seems to have come about both from miscalculation and British propaganda. Napoleon's 1821 autopsy by his personal physician, Francesco Antommarchi (1780-1838), recorded his height as 5 feet and 2 inches. It is now believed that this was in the French measurement (5 pieds 2 pouces), which translates to 5ft 7 in English measurement. This was above the average height for Frenchmen between 1800 and 1820 (which was 5ft 4½), and taller than his great rival Admiral Nelson (1758-1805) who was 5ft 4. The Duke of Wellington was only two inches taller, at 5ft 9.
Napoleon also imposed height requirements (above that of his own) on entry to the elite Imperial Guard, which included the Mounted Chasseurs who acted as his personal guard. For much of the time, the people around him would have been noticeably taller, adding to the impression of him being small.
The hugely popular British caricaturist James Gillray (1757-1815) produced the first and most influential image of a diminutive Napoleon in his Gulliver’s Travels-inspired cartoon, ‘The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver’ in which George III (1738-1820) holds Napoleon in the palm of his hand and inspects him with an eye-glass and comments, ‘I cannot but conclude you to be the one of the most pernicious little odious reptiles that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth.’
Recent translations of the Bible suggest that Goliath may have been 6 ft 6 - an inch shorter than Peter Crouch.
I failed to make the chess team because of my height.
'Auxology' is the study of human height.