Insane Facts About Robert Wadlow

By Aaron Love 11 months ago

He Was The Tallest Man Ever

Image Source: Reddit
Robert Wadlow gained some fame for his height prior to his premature death in 1940, although much of the acclaim he has received since his death has been documented massively. He was probably brought to most people's attention after being given a posthumous Guinness world record for being the tallest man to have ever lived! To put it in to numbers, Robert Wadling, at the time of his death, stood at 8 ft and 11 inches. That is absolutely crazy! In comparison, the tallest woman ever was 8ft 1.

He Died Aged Just 22

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Unfortunately, as a result of his extreme height, Robert Wadlow had a number of health issues that were made much worse due to him being so oversized. In fact, it was incredibly difficult for doctors and nurses to 100% look after Wadlow because they had never had to look after someone of such size before (and never will have after) in their careers. They had to try and find new, different ways in order to protect him which included giving him braces (we'll come back to them later). He died prematurely aged just 22 in 1940.

He Died From A Blister

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Although his blister would definitely have been worse than the image above, crazily, it was an infected blister that was actually the cause of death for Robert Wadlow. Unfortunately, his extreme height meant he actually struggled to feel his feet and blisters were quite dangerous. Supposedly, a faulty brace, given to support him caused him to develop blisters, and because he couldn't feel them, he succumbed to them after the infection spread. He contracted septicaemia and the infection took over his body.

He Was Actually Born A 'Normal Size'

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Despite Robert going on to become the tallest person to have ever existed, following his birth no one, including the doctors had any idea about what was going to happen to him as he grew. In fact, upon birth, Robert was actually slightly below the average size and weight, coming in at 8 pounds, 6oz. How on earth then, did he then go on to grow to such enormous heights! You'll find out in a few points... To be fair though, his mother was probably incredibly glad his growth spurts happened later in life!

He Was Born In Illinois

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Robert Wadling was born on the 22nd February 1918 in the city of Alton, Illinois. This is why he was later given the nicknames: The Alton Giant and also The Giant of Illinois. He was one of (and the oldest) 5 children born to his parents Harold Franklin and Addie May Johnson, and weirdly he was the only one of the children to display this extreme growth. He attended Alton High school, and graduated in 1936. Alton has used Roberts name since his death as a way to bring tourists to the city.

His Grave Is Raised

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Although faint in the image above, Robert Walding's grave was created differently in comparison to everyone else's graves in the yard. If you were to visit the grave, you'd find that the earth covering his body has actually been raised in order to allow people to compare how long Wadlow's body actually was. Just from the image alone, you can see that Robert's grave takes up the space (lengthways) that 3 of the other 'normal' sized graves would take up. It must have been extremely difficult to sort this out!

He Was 6ft At Age Eight

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6ft tends to be the average height of a male (or the height that men often claim to be or want to be), but Robert Wadling had actually reached this height at just aged 8. Bare in mind, that typically, kids are usually around 2ft smaller than this on average. Imagine turning up to class for the first time with your friends and walking in, only to find Robert Wadling towering over you and potentially your teacher before he'd even reached double digits. To confirm, that's taller than the global average male height!

Pituitary Problems Caused His Growth

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Robert Wadlow began showing signs of extreme growth within just 6 months of his life and his growth just constantly exceeded expectations. Between his first birthday and his second birthday, for example, he grew a whole ft. He was the size of an average 10 year old! It turns out the reason for his overgrowth came as a result of a medical condition known as hyperplasia. This caused extreme growth hormone development within his body, obviously to a level higher than anyone else has suffered with since.

He Would Tower Over Shaq

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One of the best ways to truly understand quite how tall Robert Wadlow really was is by comparing him to some of the players to have played in the NBA. One of the most popular 'big men' in NBA history Shaquille O'Neal only reaches 7 ft 1. How mad is it to prefix his height with the word 'only'! In fact Robert Wadlow was over a foot taller than Gheorghe Muresan who was the tallest player in NBA history. Putting it further in to perspective, on average NBA players reach around 6ft 6in, 2ft less than Robert!

He Worked As An Ambassador

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In 1938, two years before Robert Wadlow unfortunately lost his life, he began working with the international shoe company in order to help them advertise the company around the US. It's likely that the company were solely using Robert's height as a way to bring attention to the company and that definitely worked. He would travel around the US as an ambassador, going in to other workplaces in an attempt to sell. Although most people were more interested in staring at his unusual height, he enjoyed his job.

They Supplied Him Free Shoes

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One of the ways that the international shoe company were able to persuade Robert Wadlow to travel around the world under there name were to provide him with pairs of new shoes whenever he needed them. You might not think that this is a great deal, but because of his height and size, shoes that fit him weren't easy to come by and so were quite expensive. The promotional tour, it turns out, ended up working out beneficially for both parties. Who wouldn't say no to travelling the US for pay AND free shoes!

His Shoes Were Massive

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Yeah, these are Robert Wadlow's absolutely MASSIVE shoes in comparison to an averagely large size 12 over here in the US. Not only were his feet incredibly long but width-wise, they were actually wider than some people's two feet combined! He had to have specially made shoes made available to him via the ISC that reached the size of 37AA (that is mental) by the time of his death. That is nearly around 25 sizes larger than the average size of an adult male's foot in the US today. You wouldn't want to be kicked by them!

He Weighed Nearly 200kg

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The image above shows Robert Wadlow towering over the future heavyweight champion of the world Primo Carnera. What's crazy however, is that Primo is already entering the peak of his career whilst Wadlow was only 12 years old! He actually weighed 130 kg at this age too! By the time Wadlow died aged 22, he weighed around 200kg, although the year prior he had weighed in 20kg higher! To put it in to perspective, heavyweight boxers only tend to weigh around 100kg! That's quite scary!

He Had To Have A Special Desk Made

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As a result of Wadlow being so comfortably taller than any other schoolchild (or anyone for that matter) around the world at the time, it's no surprise that some things had to be suitably modified in order for him to be able to use them without causing him issues. Above, you can see that one of the desks that were specially made, with wooden blocks added to the bottom so that he could keep his posture straight and not have to bend over the desk. At least they treated him respectfully and not like a circus act!

He Began Studying Law

Image Source: Alton Telegraph
Following Wadlow's graduation from Alton High School he actually enrolled at the now closed down Shurtleff College, his goal was to study law with the dreams of (obviously!) becoming a lawyer. Unfortunately, he struggled with the work at college and didn't manage to fulfil his employment dreams. This is what led to him turning to working with the international shoe company. Imagine turning up to court and finding out you were having to compete against a man who towered over you the way Wadlow would!

He Had To Wear Leg Braces

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Obviously, Wadlow's braces wouldn't have looked quite like the ones you see above, but he was forced to wear leg braces in order to support his legs as a result of his height and all the weight he had to carry. These leg braces obviously had to be specially made to accommodate for his height and they were used in order to stabilise him. Although he was quite a strong man, his leg muscles were weakened and so sometimes struggled to keep him upright properly. It must've been quite scary not being able to walk without help from such a young age!

Toured With The Circus

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During 1936, four years before Wadlow died, he was caught (not literally) by the Ringling Brothers Circus who persuaded him to travel with them for a period. This combination eventually resulted in Wadlow becoming a national celebrity for his height, although he did have some morals. He agreed to travel with the circus as long as he wasn't part of the sideshow and he was allowed to just wear his own normal clothes. Although the brothers wanted to dress him up originally, top hat and all, they agreed to his demands and he was a huge draw (no pun intended!).

He Was Incredibly Strong

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As we've already mentioned, Robert Wadlow was obviously massive and weighed a heck of a lot! Although his legs often let him down as a result of his weakened muscles, he managed to find ways for his upper body strength to become of massive benefit to himself. His use of a cane, which we'll get on to later, meant that he could use his incredible upper body strength to support his entire body. And realistically, what else would you expect from a man who really wasn't far from being double your height!

He Was A Free Mason

Image Source: Alton Telegraph
Following his failed attempt to become a lawyer at Shurtleff College he joined the Order of DeMolay, an organization that for younger men that was sponsored by the Freemasons. Essentially, all the young men who enrolled as part of the order were supervised by Alton's local Masons group. Although the Freemasons have a strong religious aspect, and they follow some cardinal rules, much of the order's activities appeared to be similar to that of a summer camp! Wadlow would have took part in sports activities like basketball and baseball!

His Coffin Was Huge

Image Source: Guinness World Records
In order to celebrate Wadlow following his premature and untimely death, long efforts were made in order to ensure that his coffin looked and was fit for an influential man. His coffin was measured at over 10ft long and weighed more than 450 kg once he was placed inside it. In order to carry him to his resting place he had to be carried by a total of 20 people, and he was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Alton, Illinois. Bare in mind that typically only 6 pallbearers are needed to carry a coffin!

He's Celebrated In Alton

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As I've already said, Wadlow became somewhat of a national celebrity and he was celebrated more in his hometown of Alton than anywhere else in the world. So when he died it was no surprise that thousands of locals (and many from much further out) flocked in order to show their respects to the Alton Giant. Not only that, but a statue of him was erected in Alton in 1985. To this day, a whole exhibit at the Alton Museum of History still displays photographs and some of the items Wadlow used like his desk, shoes and graduation gown!

Had To Duck Through Doorways

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We rarely ever have to think about watching our heads as we're entering doors in our homes or any of the places we visit during the day but this is something that caused a lot of issues for Robert Wadlow during his short life. By the age of 12 he had already reached the average height of doors (6ft 8in) in the US and this only became more and more complicated as his life continued. Although there isn't really any evidence of him walking through doors, you have to presume it must have been complicated for him on daily basis!

Used A Cane To Walk Around

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One thing that Robert Wadlow never wanted to do was have to use a wheelchair in order to move around. Although he would have found movement a lot easier with the use of one, he felt it would make him look weak and instead put himself through some more pain with the use of his leg braces. Another way he managed to move around with slightly more ease was with the use of (again) a specially made cane. This was just as important as his leg braces as it helped him redistribute his weight.

There's Been Documentaries Made About Him

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Since his death, there have been numerous documentaries made around the life of Robert Wadlow, including one as recently as 2014 showing that people will always be interested in his life! I mean who doesn't want to learn more about this guy! Not only this, but it shows the legacy that Wadlow managed to create during such a short life. Most documentaries focus around interviews with family members (the older ones) and doctors who have some knowledge on the condition he suffered with. You can even catch a sighting of him walking about!

His Life Has Influenced Research

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Although he never would have known how important his life was, especially when it came to the lives of other people with similar conditions to him, Robert Wadlow influenced a ton of research in to gigantism. For one, his death and the issues he suffered from meant medical professionals could gauge some of the many issues and causes that can lead to problems occurring. Devices similar (but better created) to his leg braces are now extremely common and the public awareness surrounding gigantism grew massively in the decades after his death.

World's Tallest Boy Scout

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When Robert Wadlow turned 13 he joined the boy scouts, and in turn he actually became the tallest boy scout to ever existed. This is unsurprising when you take in to account that he was already 7ft 4in tall at this period in time, around a foot and a half taller than the global average for all males around the world! The boy scouts even used Wadlow in their newsletters in order to show off this new accomplishment. And like all of Wadlow's clothes he had to have some scout uniforms specially made!

He Wouldn't Have Grown So Much Today

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Unfortunately for Wadlow, he was born in a time before science was truly able to help him, as if he was born decades later (or today) he would have (probably) been able to live a much longer and less dangerous life than the one he had to go through. At the time, medical technology, as with all technology, was miles behind where we are now and had he been born today there would be a whole range of surgeries or techniques that surgeons could have been able to use in order to assist him and most importantly slow his growth.

Normal Youth Hobbies (For The Time)

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Although he was oversized in comparison to all of his siblings and all his friends, Robert still enjoyed playing and supporting all of his younger siblings. He even took part in some common hobbies for the time and spent much of his time away from school doing so. One thing he really enjoyed was collecting stamps, something that was extremely common amongst children back in the day (some people still do it now!) and he also enjoyed photography. The camera he used must have looked tiny in his hands!

His Dad Had To Modify The Car

Image Source: Guinness World Records
I've looked at this image an insane amount of times and I still can't work out how on earth Wadlow ever managed to squeeze himself in to a car of this size! Wadlow struggled to be able to drive cars himself as a result of the leg-room available to him in old cars. Although I don't think it'd be any better today! His father actually had to modify the family car and drove Wadlow around himself in order to help complete his work commitments. He did this by removing the front passenger seat so Robert could stretch his legs from the back!

His Mum Destroyed Most Of His Stuff

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Although some of Robert's belongings and things he used are still available at the Alton Museum of History, you'll never be able to see the majority of his stuff! In fact, in order to try and preserve her image of her son, she decided to destroy much of his belongings so that he couldn't be used by the toxic people around the world to profit from his death. Instead, we were left with just a few artefacts and a load of images to remember this gentle giant of a man for the rest of eternity. A man taken way too early!

Things you didn't know about Rumeysa Gelgi, the tallest woman in the world!

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Robert Wadlow will probably never have his record broken as the tallest man in the world. But while the gentle giant is gone, there are others still breaking records when it comes to height, including the world's smallest man and women, and Rumeysa Gelgi, who is the world's tallest woman alive today! Here are some things you didn't know about the world's tallest woman.

She was born with Weaver Syndrome

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Weaver Syndrome is a very rare genetic mutation, which results in rapid growth in the body. Rumeysa Gelgi was born with this condition, which is what resulted in her growing at a rapid pace. Not only does it cause fast growth, but it also results in a lot of restriction in the way the joints move. It also makes the bones much weaker, and it's this that Rumeysa was faced with at a young age.

She had to have surgery before she was 5

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Due to the syndrome that she was born with, Rumeysa had to have not one, but two surgeries, before she had even reached the age of 5, in order for her to be able to walk. The syndrome's effects on her body meant her bones and joints were weak and had restricted movement, so her only hope of being able to walk properly was two surgeries to be able to walk for the very first time - which she still couldn't do without the help of a walker.

She was winning records as a teenager

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Because of her rapid growth even from only a few years old, Rumeysa was already breaking records when she was only a teenage girl! She won the title of world's tallest living female teenager, when she reached a height of 7 foot 0.09 inches back in 2014! She continued to grow since then, and next up won the record for the tallest woman living when she moved into her adult years at 7 foot 0.7 inches!

She uses a wheelchair

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Due to her size and condition, Rumeysa does need some help getting around comfortably and supporting herself, which is why most of the time she makes use of a wheelchair. She can move without one, but because of her tall stature, it must be a relief for her to sit down as much as she can! She can walk with the aid of a walker for short distances but then needs to return to her wheelchair.

She's an optimist who spreads awareness

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Despite her condition, her upbringing and her need to use walking aids and a wheelchair, Rumeysa lets none of that dampen her positive outlook, and she also uses her voice to raise awareness about the condition that she's grown up with. She has said that "every disadvantage can be turned into an advantage" and to "accept yourself for who you are" and "do your best".

She has five world records to her name

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Accepting herself and doing her best is exactly what she's doing, because she know has a shelf full of awards she's earned - a total of five world records! She has the original two which she was awarded for being the world's tallest female teenager, and then the world's tallest woman, and more recently she acquired for record for longest finger of a living female, the largest female hands and the longest back.

She earned her education from home

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Rumeysa wasn't able to physically go to school due to her condition, but she didn't let that stop her from getting an education. She ended up completing her education qualifications from home, and then went on to study web development. She had a dream to work in the tech industry, and she made it happen, now working as a Front-End Developer with skills she taught herself.

She has a ton of hobbies

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Just like with her education and her positivity for life, she hasn't let her condition stop her from doing anything else she wants to do, either. Rumeysa has a ton of hobbies she likes to do in her spare time, which include shopping, staying fit by swimming, traveling to explore new places (and no doubt spread her positivity) as well as spending time with her cat!

Plane seats can be tricky

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We know how uncomfortable, narrow and lacking legroom plane seats can be - well, imagine how Rumeysa feels! In order to be able to fly comfortably - which of course she still does, because she loves to travel and doesn't let anything stop her! - she actually has to buy more than one plane ticket to fly comfortably. In fact, most recently she bought six plane tickets to convert into a stretcher for her full height to be accommodated lying down!

She struggled to make friends

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We know that kids can be mean, and especially when there's something 'different' that they don't fully understand. For Rumeysa, her towering height when the same age as other kids meant that she had a hard time connecting with others and making friends. Luckily, she still had amazing support from both of her parents, as well as educational figures in her life!

She can't sit up straight for more than a few hours

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Sitting upright in a seat is very difficult for Rumeysa when it reaches a couple of hours being sat down. Not only because of her height, but because she has "rods and screws" in her spine that help to support her - but also mean that she can't sit upright in a seat for more than three hours at most. This is also why flying has been difficult for her - and why she had to lie down on the six seats to fly long haul!

She uses a van

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You won't find Rumeysa shopping for a Mini Cooper, that's for sure! Not only is flying on a plane difficult for her, but everyday getting around when driving a car is difficult to. Due to her sheer height, she gets around in a van instead of a car, as this affords her extra space, comfort and legroom. Some people wouldn't have bothered driving altogether, but not Rumeysa!

She's picky with her clothes

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But obviously this isn't through her own choice! She has to be very selective about her clothes because she has to choose fashion items which work for her specific height. Luckily, 'tall' women brands do exist (even though her height is a little more than many fashion brands bargained for) but with designs like maxi skirts, dresses and longline blouses, she manages to find what she needs.

She wants to educate and inspire people

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Rumeysa knows what it's like to be judged for being different, and she also has that firsthand experience of a very rare medical condition. She uses her position and reputation to do activist work in raising awareness for rare conditions like hers, while also inspiring people to not let anything hold them back from their dreams, and help to teach others not to "judge others by how they look".

She's never felt bad at her condition

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Anybody could understand such a young child with such a rare condition feeling upset about what they were going through - but Rumeysa doesn't remember ever feeling bad or upset about it. She said that she first understood her condition around the age of 5 or 6, but that her strength and optimism came from her parents teaching her that her condition was something that made her unique.

She has a deep voice, too

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If you've only ever seen pictures of Rumeysa, or heard about her in the news, you might not know that she also has a very deep voice which comes as part of her condition. She's said that it's the question about her deep voice which is her least favorite! People assume there's something "wrong" with her voice and ask her about it, when her lower voice is just a symptom of Weaver Syndrome.

She went through puberty at the age of 6

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Most people know that painful process of 'going through puberty' in your teenage years when everything is changing. For Rumeysa, she had to go through that from the age of 6 to the age of 9! This was because she had medical treatment to bring about puberty early, so that her maximum height would hopefully be reached sooner and prevent overgrowth. Her puberty started at the age of 6 as a result!

This also resulted in her having an adult body as a teenager

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Another reason Rumeysa ended up with the tallest female teenage award is because she pretty much had her adult height body during her teenage years. But she also had to go through the reality of having an adult's body when she was only just a teenager. Even as fully grown adults we panic about changes happening in our bodies, so imagine dealing with the full effects of adulthood on your body at such a young age!

Her advice for young people with Weaver Syndrome

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As a public figure and advocate for her condition, Rumeysa also has plenty of advice for young people who might be dealing with the same condition, or similar. She's made it clear to never think that your syndrome defines who you are as a person. "Always be aware of your potential," says Rumeysa, "set goals for your future and do your best to achieve them".