On April 16, 2019, we remember the man officially recognized as the tallest person in recorded history – Robert Pershing Wadlow, who reached an astounding height of 2.72 meters. Even more astonishing, at the time of his untimely passing at the age of 22, he was still growing. Let’s delve into the extraordinary life of this giant among giants.
Born on February 22, 1918, in Alton, Illinois, USA, Robert started life as an average-sized baby, measuring 51 cm and weighing 3.8 kilograms. However, his rapid and abnormal growth became evident early on. By six months, he already stood at 88 cm and weighed 13 kg. His growth continued unabated, with Robert reaching 1.3 meters and 28 kg at 18 months. By the time he was five, he was a towering 1.64 meters tall. At 13, he reached 2.18 meters and became the world’s tallest Boy Scout. At 19, he surpassed 2.58 meters, earning the title of the world’s tallest man. Shortly before his untimely passing at 22, he was measured at a staggering 2.72 meters.
Why Was Robert Wadlow So Tall?
Robert Wadlow, the tallest man ever documented, like André the Giant, suffered from a pituitary gland disorder, which resulted in an excessive release of growth hormones. This condition, known as gigantism, also affected his extremities, hands, feet, and face. Fortunately, in today’s developed countries, this condition can be managed effectively with proper medical treatment to regulate hormone secretion. Sadly, such treatments were not available during Robert’s time.
Robert’s Daily Life
Living with a height exceeding 2.5 meters in the 1930s was a considerable challenge. Robert needed three beds to sleep comfortably and had a specially designed table for dining while sitting comfortably. At school, a customized desk was created to accommodate his stature. In college, he even had a tailor-made chair. When he turned 18, crafting his clothing required three times the normal amount of fabric. Robert’s shoe size was a whopping 72, requiring him to commission special footwear. Fortunately, he managed to find a manufacturer willing to produce them in exchange for a promotional tour, which necessitated adjustments to the car for his comfort. Even after his passing, his unique requirements persisted. His coffin measured 3.28 meters and required about twenty people to carry it. A staggering 40,000 people attended his funeral.
Robert’s Untimely Demise
Due to his towering height, Robert relied on a cane for mobility and an orthopedic device to address his physical abnormalities. Unfortunately, this orthopedic device was poorly adjusted, resulting in an injury that quickly became infected. Despite efforts to treat the infection, it worsened, ultimately claiming his life at the tender age of 22. One can only wonder how much taller he might have grown. At the time of his death, his hands measured 32.4 cm, and his feet were 47 cm long.
Notable Anecdotes about Robert Wadlow
- At nine years old, he could carry his father on his back.
- He consumed three to four times the food of an average person.
- By the age of six, he was taller than his teacher, Miss Manley.
- Robert briefly worked in a circus (Bailey Circus).
- When traveling by car, he removed the front seat to sit in the back.
- He once felt small for the first time when he stood beside California’s giant Sequoia trees and appreciated their grandeur.
- He was irritated by people who tapped his shins to check if he was wearing stilts.
- After his passing, Robert’s mother burned some of his belongings to prevent them from being exploited for profit.
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