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Born in [Warwick, Rhode Island, Sheldon distinguished himself in both fields; in psychology.
He received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago in 1925 and an M.D. from there in 1933.
He taught at:
- University of Texas in 1923-1924
- University of Chicago, 1924-1927
- University of Wisconsin, 1927-1930
- University of Chicago Theological Seminary, 1931-1938
- Harvard University, 1938-1942
- University of Oregon Medical School, 1951-1970
He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1977.
Sheldon pioneered the use of anthropometry in the development of his categories of somatotypes and in his day was extremely influential. Through the use of many photographs and measurements of nude figures (mainly Ivy League students), Sheldon assigned people into three categories of body types in the 1940s: endomorphic, mesomorphic, and ectomorphic. He also assigned personality traits to the body types as well. Endomorphics had fat, soft, and round body types, and their personality was described as relaxed, fond of eating, and sociable. Mesomorphics were muscular, rectangular, strong, and personality-wise were filled with energy, courage, and assertive tendencies. Ectomorphics were thin, long, fragile, as well as brainy, artistic, and introverted; they would think about life, rather than consuming it or acting on it.
Sheldon's star has dimmed somewhat in recent years. By and large, most psychologists no longer accept the validity of somatotype theory.
In numismatics, Sheldon authored Penny Whimsy, the first work to extensively catalog the varieties of early American large cent. He also developed the "Sheldon scale" that graded coins on a numeric basis from 1 to 70 . But , later revelations that Sheldon used his access to the American Numismatic Society's large cent collection to engage in theft  have called his role in numismatic history into question. Nonetheless, his "Sheldon scale" for coin grading is still standard today among American numismatists.
- Sheldon, W. H. (1940).The varieties of human physique: An introduction to constitutional psychology (New York: Harper & Brothers,).
- Sheldon, W. H. (1942).vThe varieties of temperament; a psychology of constitutional differences,with the collaboration of S.S. Stevens
- Sheldon, W. H. (1949)Varieties of delinquent youth; an introduction to constitutional psychiatry, with the collaboration of Emil M. Hartl and Eugene McDermott
- Sheldon, W. H. (1954). Atlas of Men: a Guide for Somatotyping the Adult Male At All Ages, New York: Harper & Row.