Robert Wadlow, The Tallest Person Man To Ever Live

The world’s tallest man ever to live in history was Robert Wadlow. Measured at 8 feet and 11 inches made him one of the fewest people to be featured in the Guinness books. Known as “The Alton Giant,” he was born in Alton, Illinois, on February 12, 1918. He lived for 22 years before dying on July 15, 1940, due to overlooking medical conditions caused by the overactive pituitary gland.

Robert Wadlow’s record-breaking height and as the tallest man in history has captured the attention of locals and around the world. Take a glimpse at his early life, attaining celebrity status, the cause of his death, and what he did during his short life span.

Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in human history

Early Life of the Tallest Man Ever in History

Robert Wadlow was born a healthy, normal-sized baby, weighing 8 pounds and 6 ounces. His family did not notice differences until he began to experience a growth spur. 

He weighed 45 pounds and stood at 3 feet tall by age one. His parents wanted him to live an independent life. So, they enrolled him in a school with children similar to his age. In elementary school, they began to record his growth and medical conditions.

Although due to his height, the school had to make several accommodations to provide him access to education. While there are physical differences, he participated and played in activities with other children.

At age eight, Robert became taller than his father, who stood at 5’11” in height by reaching 6 feet tall. A unique wooden desk had to be built with wooden blocks to prevent him from injuring his back due to crouching over.

He became the tallest boy scout globally at age thirteen, standing at an impressive 7’4″ feet tall. Nearly everywhere he went had to get accommodations due to his large size. In addition to that, his medical conditions worsened over time as he became older and taller.

After graduating from Alton High School in 1936, Robert stood at 8 feet and 4 inches. He went to Shurtleff College to study law. However, his great size later created several complications that forced him to drop out.

Robert Wadlow’s Hobbies

The tallest man ever had several hobbies and thoroughly enjoyed them. Robert was a stamp collector who enjoyed collecting stamps. He also happily posed for pictures and had an interest in photography. In addition to that, he was a musician who played Hawaiian guitar.

As Robert grew older and taller, his size made it harder for him to enjoy the hobbies that he loved. However, his kind nature and likable personality earned him the “gentle giant” among his friends and family. 

Why is Robert Wadlow so Tall?

Robert’s family and the doctor could not explain his medical condition until he was almost 12 years old. Finally, doctors located an overactive pituitary gland in the brain that causes an imbalance of growth hormones. However, Brain surgery was not a well-understood science, and performing the surgery wasn’t an option.

Robert Wadlow and his father

Because of the risk associated with brain surgery, Robert kept on growing. With modern medications, he would have lasted several more years. Advanced medications, hormone therapies, and surgeries are standard methods to treat people with overactive pituitary glands.

What was Robert Wadlow’s Cause of Death?

He constantly did everything he could to stay in the best shape possible. However, as he grew older, taller, and became more prominent. His long legs caused his worsening health condition. Because of the length of his legs, Robert cannot feel injuries or wounds that lead to infections and other medical issues.

Whenever his leg braces scraped against the skin, blisters formed and caused infections. That weakened his immune system, which exposed him to many ailments. Without modern medications to fight infection, Robert lived a short life and died at age 22 in sleep. However, he would have continued to live a bright future as a lawyer with medications.

Before his funeral, he measured 8 feet and 11 inches tall. His body was stored inside a 10 feet casket that weighed 1,000 pounds. It took 18 strong men to lift and carry. Thousands of mourners attended his funeral, including families, friends, and admirers.

Why is Robert Wadlow Famous as the Tallest Man Ever?

In his hometown, he went as “The Alton Giant.” Robert was famous for his immeasurable height as well as his life. His stature attracted attention from people who frequently wanted to capture photos with him to ensure his legacy as the tallest man ever lives on.

Whenever Robert goes, he usually has a crowd that prompts the Ringling Brothers to make an offer to tour with them. Initially, his family was unsure because they felt like the circus would portray Robert as a freak.

His family eased up as the circus showcased him with tiny, little people so that the patrons could marvel at his height. Robert quickly reached celebrity status with the Ringling Brothers and made multiple appearances.

With a modified car to accommodate his height, he visited 41 states and more than 800 towns as a spokesperson for Peters Shoe Company. He made quite an earning from his appearances, and the company gifted him a pair of custom-made shoes. Although Alton held a special place in his heart, he thoroughly enjoyed exploring new places and making friends.

Robert Wadlow’s custom shoes. Photo by Doug Caldwell. CC BY-SA 3.0

Robert Wadlow and Alton Museum of History

Today, people worldwide can visit Alton, Illinois, to see a statue standing on his hometown’s Southern Illinois University School campus. Alton Museum also has dedicated artifacts that once were part of Robert’s life, including the wooden desk, graduation gown, and even a custom-made ring to accommodate his large hands.

While Robert Wadlow is known as the world’s tallest man in history, he earned the Guinness record for having the largest hands. Unfortunately, his family destroyed most of his possessions to prevent collectors from pawning them for quick cash. Furthermore, his family wanted to preserve his legacy in their preferred way.

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