15 July 2012

Robert Wadlow

Robert Pershing Wadlow (February 22, 1918 – July 15, 1940) was the tallest person in history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. Wadlow is sometimes known as the Alton Giant or Giant of Illinois because he was born and grew up in Alton, Illinois.[1][2]
Wadlow reached 8 ft 11.1 in (2.720 m)[3][4][5] in height and weighed 439 lb (199 kg) at his death at age 22. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood was due to hypertrophy of his pituitary gland, which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone. He showed no indication of an end to his growth even at the time of his death.
Robert Pershing Wadlow

Robert Wadlow compared to his father, Harold Franklin Wadlow (±1.82 m (5 ft 11 12 in))
Born February 22, 1918
Alton, Illinois
Died July 15, 1940 (aged 22)
Manistee, Michigan[1][2]
Cause of death Infection
Nationality American
Education Alton High School
Alma mater Shurtleff College
Known for Tallest verified human being
Home town Alton, Illinois
Height 8 ft 11.1 in (2.720 m)[3]
Weight 491 lb (223 kg)
Parents Harold Franklin Wadlow
Addie Johnson

Early life

Wadlow was born to Addie Johnson and Harold Wadlow in Alton, Illinois on February 22, 1918, and was the oldest of five children. During elementary school, they had to make a specialized desk for him, due to his size. Wadlow was also the world's tallest Boy Scout.[6] In 1936, after graduating from Alton High School, he enrolled in Shurtleff College with the intention of studying law. By the time he had graduated from college, he was 8 ft 3 in. [2]

Later years

Wadlow's size began to take its toll: he required leg braces to walk, and had little feeling in his legs and feet. Despite these difficulties, Wadlow never used a wheelchair.
Wadlow was an American celebrity; he was well-known due to his 1936 U.S. tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus and his 1938 promotional tour with the INTERCO. He continued participating in tours and public appearances, though only in his normal street clothes. His shoes were provided to him free of charge by a shoe company for which he did promotional work and appearances.[citation needed] Examples still exist in several locations throughout the US, including Snyder's Shoe Store of Ludington and Manistee, MI, and the Alton Museum of History and Art.
Wadlow was a Freemason. In 1939, he petitioned Franklin Lodge #25 in Alton, Illinois, and by late November of that year[7] was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F & A.M.
One year before his death, he passed John Rogan as the tallest person ever. On June 27, 1940 (eighteen days before his death), he was measured at 8 ft 11.1 in (2.720 m) by doctors C. M. Charles and Cyril MacBryde of Washington University in St. Louis.


On July 4, 1940, during a professional appearance at the Manistee National Forest Festival, a faulty brace irritated his ankle, causing a blister and subsequent infection. Doctors treated him with a blood transfusion and emergency surgery, but his condition worsened, and on July 15, 1940, he died in his sleep at age 22.
More than 30,000 people attended Wadlow's funeral on July 19.[1] He was buried in a 10-foot-long (3.0 m), half-ton coffin that required twelve pallbearers to carry and was interred in a vault of solid concrete. It was believed that Wadlow's family members were concerned for the sanctity of his body after his death, and wanted to ensure it would not be disturbed or stolen.


A life-size statue of Wadlow stands on College Avenue in Alton, opposite the Alton Museum of History and Art. The statue was erected in 1986 in honor of the hometown native.[8][2] Another statue of him stands in The Guinness Museum in Niagara Falls, and others are at several of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museums. A group of six life-size models, made before his death by artist James Butler, exist, and are shipped and displayed in replica caskets.[9]

In music

The 1998 song "The Giant of Illinois," by The Handsome Family (and later covered by Andrew Bird) honors Wadlow. In 2005 Sufjan Stevens recorded "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders" about Wadlow for the Illinois album. A picture of Wadlow with his family is featured on the back cover of the VHS version of the Talking Heads music video compilation, Storytelling Giant.

Height chart

Wadlow's shoe, size 37AA[3]
Wadlow's shoe compared to a size 12
Wadlow's statue in Copenhagen
Age Height Weight Notes
8 lb 6 oz (3.8 kg) Normal height.
5 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m) 105 pounds (48 kg)
8 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 169 lb (77 kg)
10 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 210 lb (95 kg)
13 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) 301 lb (137 kg) World's tallest Boy Scout, averaging a growth of 4 inches (10 cm) per year since birth, wearing size 25 (U.S.) shoes.[10]
16 7 ft 10.5 in (2.40 m) 374 lb (170 kg)
17 8 ft 1.5 in (2.48 m) 315 lb (143 kg) Weight is approximate.
18 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)

19 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) 480 lb (220 kg)
21 8 ft 9.5 in (2.68 m) 491 lb (223 kg)
22 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m) 439 lb (199 kg) At death, Robert Wadlow is the world's tallest man according to the Guinness World Records.[3]

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