Robert Pershing Wadlow (February 22, 1918 - July 15, 1940), according to Guinness World Records, is the tallest man in medical history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He is often known as the Alton Giant. Wadlow reached an unprecedented 8 ft 11.1 in (272 cm) in height and weighed 439 lb (199 kg) at his death. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood were due to a tumor within his pituitary gland. He showed no indication of an end to his growth even at the time of his death.
Wadlow was born to Harold Franklin and Addie (Johnson) Wadlow in Alton, Illinois on 22 February 1918, at the weight of 8 lb, 6 oz (3.80 kg) and normal height. He was the oldest of five children; his younger siblings were Helen Ione, Eugene Harold, Betty Jean, and Harold Franklin II. His height increased normally until he was four years old. He then started attracting attention due to his rapid growth. By the age of eight, he was 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) tall. At 10, he was 6 ft 6 in (198 cm) and 220 lb (100 kg). At the age of 14, he became the world's tallest Boy Scout at the height of 7 ft 4 in (224 cm), averaging a growth of four inches per year since birth; at that time he wore size 25 (U.S.) shoes.
At 16, Wadlow was 7 ft 10.5 in (240 cm) tall and weighed 365 lb (166 kg). At 17, he weighed nearly 400 lb (180 kg) and was 8 ft 1.5 in (248 cm) tall. By age 18, Wadlow had grown to be 8 ft 4 in (254 cm) and weigh more than 390 lb (26 stone/177 kg); his size 37AA shoes (about 19.3 in or 49 cm), were provided to him free of charge. In 1936, after graduating from Alton High School, he enrolled in Shurtleff College with the intention of studying law. By 1937, Wadlow had exceeded all previous recorded human heights. At 19, he was 8 ft 6 in (260 cm) and weighed 435 lb (31 stone/197 kg). On his 21st birthday he attained his greatest weight- 491 lb (223 kg). By this time, his hands measured 12.75 in. (32.4 cm) from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger
Later years and death
Wadlow's size began to take its toll: he required leg braces to walk, and had little feeling in his legs and feet. When Robert was 21, he reached 8 ft 3 ½ in (252.7 cm) tall. On June 27, 1940 (eighteen days before his death), he was measured at 8 ft 11.1 in (272 cm) by doctors C. M. Charles and Cyril MacBryde of Washington University in St. Louis.
In his time, Wadlow was among the most popular of American celebrities; 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 various tours and public appearances.
On July 4, 1940 Robert was hospitalised while making a professional appearance at the National Forest Festival; a faulty brace had irritated his ankle, causing a blister and bad 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.
Around 40,000 people attended Wadlow's funeral on 19 July. He was buried in a half-ton coffin that required 12 pallbearers to carry, which was interred within a vault of solid concrete. It was believed that Wadlow's family were concerned for the sanctity of his body after his death, and went to these lengths of security to ensure he would never be disturbed or stolen.
Gigantism, the disorder from which Wadlow suffered, usually involves only the lower extremities, so that in most cases the head and trunk are of more or less normal size while the lower torso and legs attain extreme proportions. This is similar to the opposing condition of Dwarfism, in which the lower extremeties tend to be underdeveloped yet the upper body remains relatively normal.
Robert Wadlow had a pituitary gland tumor that secreted large amounts of growth hormone resulting in acromegalic gigantism. Death is usually a result of heart complications due to the large volume of blood needing to be circulated.
- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hours: 24-hr. access
Address: 2800 College Ave.
Come visit us in Alton, Illinois