Robert Wadlow, The Tallest Man To Ever Live

Last updated on February 1st, 2024 at 04:48 pm

Measuring 8’11”, the world’s tallest man in history was Robert Wadlow. For comparison, he was one and a half feet taller than Andre the Giant and almost two feet taller than Shaquille O’neill.

Known as “The Alton Giant,” he was born in Alton, Illinois, on February 12, 1918. He lived for 22 years before passing on July 15, 1940, due to overlooking medical conditions caused by an overactive pituitary gland.

Robert Wadlow’s record-breaking height has captured the attention of people worldwide. Take a glimpse at his early life, celebrity status, the cause of his demise, and what he did during his short life.

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. Nothing was unusual until he experienced an extreme growth spurt before he turned one year old.

He weighed 45 pounds and stood at 3 feet tall by age one.

Despite his unusual size, his parents wanted him to live a normal life. They enrolled him in a regular school with kids his own age, even though he was 5’4″ by the time he started kindergarten.

Due to his height, the school had to make several accommodations. His desk was modified with wooden blocks so he could sit comfortably. While there were physical differences, his childhood was typical for a kid in Illinois.

At age eight, Wadlow was taller than his father, who stood at 5’11”. He became the tallest boy scout globally at age thirteen, standing at an impressive 7’4″ feet tall.

When Wadlow graduated from Alton High School in 1936, he was 8’4″. Afterward, he went to Shurtleff College to study law. However, his size and health issues later created several complications that forced him to drop out.

Robert Wadlow’s Hobbies

Wadlow had several hobbies that he thoroughly enjoyed. Robert was an avid stamp collector and had an interest in photography. In addition to that, he was a musician who played Hawaiian guitar.

As he grew older and taller, his size made it harder for him to enjoy the hobbies that he loved. However, his kind nature and likability earned him the love of 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. Then, finally, doctors located an overactive pituitary gland in the brain that causes an imbalance of growth hormones.

At the time, the brain was far less understood than today, so performing surgery was far too risky of an option.

Robert Wadlow and his father

Without 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.

How did Robert Wadlow pass??

Robert Wadlow did everything he could to stay in the best shape possible. However, as he grew older and taller, he began developing issues that led to him wearing leg braces.

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 passed at age 22 in sleep. H

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, including families, friends, and admirers, attended his funeral.

Why is Robert Wadlow famous as the Tallest Man Ever?

Robert became famous for his immeasurable height, kindness, and likeability. His stature attracted the attention of people who wanted to take a photo with him.

Whenever Robert went, he usually drew a crowd, which prompted the Ringling Brothers to make an offer to tour with them.

The circus showcased him with tiny people so 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 a great living 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 also 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.

Wadlow poses with his family in Alton, Illinois

Robert Wadlow compares his size 36 shoes with Major Mite’s size 4s. Photo by Eddie Jackson

Robert Wadlow with actresses Maureen O’Sullivan and Ann Morris in 1938.

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