Get To Know The Tallest Man In History

By
Tue, 5 Dec 2017

In all of recorded history, no person has ever been taller than Robert Wadlow. By the end of his life, Wadlow had reached an astounding height of 8 feet and 11 inches. In this guide, we look into the life and legacy of this record-breaking giant.

The Life of Robert Wadlow

Wadlow was born in 1918 in Alton, Illinois. While he was a relatively normal 8 pounds at birth, he soon began to grow at a remarkable pace. By the time he was 8 years old, Robert was already taller than his father. After graduating from college, he planned on studying law. Instead, he accepted an offer from the Ringling Brothers Circus and went on a nationwide tour. This made him something of a celebrity, allowing him to earn a living by touring with various companies and making sponsored public appearances. During one of these events, a leg brace caused him to get a blister that later became infected. He was rushed into surgery, but it was too late. Wadlow died soon after, at the age of 22.

Wadlow's Legacy

The 10 Tallest People in History

Name Country Height
1. Robert Wadlow United States 8 ft, 11.1 in
2. John Rogan United States 8 ft, 9 in
3. Väinö Myllyrinne Finland 8 ft, 3 in
4. Sultan Kösen Turkey 8 ft, 2.8 in
5. Don Koehler United States 8 ft, 2 in
6. Bernard Coyne United States 8 ft, 2 in
7. Zeng Jinlian China 8 ft, 1.75 in
8. Patrick Cotter O'Brien Ireland 8 ft, 1 in
9. Brahim Takioullah Morocco 8 ft, 1 in
10. Morteza Mehrzad Iran 8 ft, 1 in

In Depth

Stature has been considered an important asset throughout history. Generals, emperors, and people of power have often been revered in part for their height. Since antiquity, there have been records of extraordinarily tall people. The title of tallest man in history belongs to Robert Wadlow. According to Guinness World Records, no one has yet to surpass Wadlow in height since his death in 1940. We took a deeper look into the life of this world record breaking man.

Generals, emperors, and people of power have often been revered in part for their height.

As the first born son to Harold Wadlow and Addie Johnson in early 1918, Robert was a healthy baby. He weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces. Shortly after his birth, he began to grow at a remarkable pace. At 6 months, he weighed roughly 30 pounds, which was double the size for babies his age. By the end of his first year, Wadlow had gained 15 additional pounds and was already over 3 feet tall.

He weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces.

In a few years the Wadlows would discover the reason for his astounding growth. It was due to a hyperactive pituitary gland. Located behind the bridge of your nose, this gland is responsible for hormone control. An irregular gland can have profound effects on the human body. This rapid growth would continue ceaselessly for the rest of Robert's life.

Located behind the bridge of your nose, this gland is responsible for hormone control.

No one else in the Wadlow family had the same condition. Robert had four younger siblings, all regular height. The family lived in Alton, Illinois. When he was in kindergarten at age five, Robert wore clothes that would have fit a 17 year old. A few years later he was taller than his father at 6 foot 2. By the time he joined the Boy Scouts at age 13, he was 7 feet tall. He also possessed powerful physical strength. If he wanted, Robert could carry an average sized man up a flight of stairs.

When he was in kindergarten at age five, Robert wore clothes that would have fit a 17 year old.

Because of his unprecedented stature, Robert had to have many items tailor made. His Boy Scout uniform, sleeping bag and tent all had to be modified. During meals, he sat at a special enhanced end of the dinner table. His feet eventually reached size 37 AA, and his special shoes cost $100 to make. Today, they would cost over $1,000. His custom created suits used three times the amount of cloth normally needed. At home, he relaxed in an overlarge chair. In school he had a personalized desk.

His Boy Scout uniform, sleeping bag and tent all had to be modified.

When he finished high school, Robert was officially the tallest man in history. He was aged 19 and stood at 8 feet 7 inches tall with no signs of stopping. Friends described him as quiet and polite. Because of these mild mannered qualities, he was dubbed a "gentle giant." Robert enrolled in Shurtleff College with plans to study law. Soon after, the circus came recruiting. He traveled with the Ringling Brothers in 1936. Wadlow quickly became a national celebrity.

Friends described him as quiet and polite.

Robert was able to generate money by making national appearances and taking interviews. With his father, he toured across the US in a modified car for the International Shoe Company. Wadlow was photographed in a host of ways to showcase his dramatic height. He has been posed next to all sizes of people, atop the Empire State Building, and even meeting Hollywood star Mary Pickford.

With his father, he toured across the US in a modified car for the International Shoe Company.

As he aged, Robert began to experience health issues. He began suffering from weakness and his legs and feet had little feeling. Though he never used a wheelchair, he did have a cane and leg braces for walking. While making one of his professional appearances, Wadlow incurred a blister on his ankle from a faulty brace. This quickly became infected. Doctors performed an emergency surgery and blood transfusion to no avail. Robert's condition did not improve. He died in his sleep at age 22.

Though he never used a wheelchair, he did have a cane and leg braces for walking.

Before his passing Robert had been measured at 8 feet 11 inches. His coffin was almost 11 feet long and had to be carried by a dozen pallbearers and 6 assistants. Thousands of people attended his funeral. The family destroyed most of his belongings, for fear they would end up on display as "freak" souvenirs.

Thousands of people attended his funeral.

Robert Wadlow remains a beloved fascination. He had an arm span of 9 feet and 5.75 inches, and hands that were a foot long. His food consumption was more than three times the recommended amount at 8,000 calories a day. At his heaviest, he weighed just short of 500 pounds. Robert's supreme size and strength made him an anomaly to many.

His food consumption was more than three times the recommended amount at 8,000 calories a day.

Multiple musicians have written songs about Wadlow, including The Handsome Family and Sufjan Stevens. His shoes are on display at the Alton Museum of History and Art. Life sized statues were erected in Illinois and the Guinness Museums. Ripley's Believe It or Not also has models on display, as well as Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Michigan. No one has beaten Robert's record. It's likely that he'll remain a fixture in culture for some time.

Life sized statues were erected in Illinois and the Guinness Museums.