Nobody ever thinks about Professor X’s height. Is there immense stature secreted away in Charles Xavier’s wheelchair-bound legs? Or is he more compact than his big personality suggests? Even when he’s cradled in Wolverine’s arms in Logan, it’s not easy to tell. But a new study on the genetics of baldness, published today in Nature Communications, may offer us some hints.
The massive study, which analyzed the genes of 22,500 adult men from seven different countries, was an attempt to link male pattern baldness to other, more visible traits. In their meta-analysis, the University of Bonn researchers found 63 “genetic alterations” associated with baldness in men, which were linked to traits such as early puberty, an increased risk of prostate cancer, light skin color (“white men in particular lose their hair prematurely,” they said), and increased bone density. But perhaps the most intriguing association they found was the link to height.
“Short men may have an increased risk of becoming bald prematurely,” the researchers announced in a statement about their research, which is the largest genome-wide association study of male pattern baldness to date. The large and varied group of genes they pinpointed suggest that baldness isn’t an isolated characteristic, they write, explaining that the mechanisms at work in the hair loss process — such as melatonin signaling or fat cell creation — are likely involved with the other traits they identified, too.
What does this mean for Professor X? If we assume that his baldness has a genetic basis, then the study suggests that it would be safest to guess that he’s on the short side. While guys like the very bald and very tall Dwayne Johnson certainly exist, the research suggests that they are statistically less common than guys like Danny Devito.
In the Marvel Universe, it’s not exactly clear why Professor X is bald. James McAvoy’s Xavier maintained a head full of hair through X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it wasn’t until X-Men: Apocalypse that we learned that his head needed to be shaved in order for the evil mutant Apocalypse to transfer his consciousness and powers into his body. But then he stayed bald — consistent with Patrick Stewart’s classic portrayal of the professor — and Marvel has never really explained why. In Logan, however, we know that Xavier’s baldness is linked to his psychic powers, which definitely are genetic: In a previous interview with Inverse, the film’s makeup director explained that Xavier grows wisps of hair in Logan because his psychic powers are failing. If we surmise that Xavier’s baldness is indeed genetic, then he’s more likely to be a man of shorter stature.
How does this prediction hold up? According to Marvel’s official records, Professor X’s height is exactly 6’0”, which is undeniably tall, further supporting the idea that the old psychic really is a genetic anomaly. But Patrick Stewart is shorter, at 5’8”, and James McAvoy is even more so, at 5’6”. It seems that Marvel’s casting crew is more scientifically savvy than the public might believe.