Who’s the Tallest Person in the World

The question of who’s the tallest person in the world is no more a controversy as the fame of each of them has become a beacon whose brightness and clout can never endure a covering, let alone remain a secret.

Robert Pershing Wadlow, also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, was an American man who was the tallest person in recorded history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He was born and raised in Alton, Illinois, a small city near St. Louis, Missouri.

Who’s the Tallest Person in the World

There are three most popular men whose heights are said to be phenomenal and uncommon all over the globe. These men are discovered to be exceptional from their cradle, judging by their structures which are marked by their heights. But of all these three men, the question about who’s the tallest person in the world will certainly become our focus in this article.

Birth of Robert Wadlow

Perhaps surprisingly, Robert entered the world no differently to most babies. He was born on 22 February 1918 to two regular-sized parents, weighing an unremarkable 3.85 kg (8.7 lb). The twins then named Robert Wadlow as the tallest man “of whom there is irrefutable evidence”. When last measured on 27 June 1940, the mild-mannered American stretched a staggering 2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in) tall.

Aged eight, he overtook his 5-ft 11-in-tall (180.3-cm) tall father, Harold F Wadlow, and towered over his four younger siblings. When most children were still being carried by their parents, Robert was able to lift his father up the stairs of their family home.

But he rapidly started to shoot up, reaching an incredible 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in) by the age of five, by which time he was already wearing clothes intended for teenagers.

Health Issues

Robert’s incredible height caused a number of medical issues however, which worsened as he grew older – and taller. Yet as a young boy, he tried his hardest to get involved in the same activities his peers were doing. For example, he became a Boy Scout at the age of 13, and had a customized uniform, tent and sleeping bag.

Robert passed the 2.45 m (8 ft 0.5 in) mark by the age of 17, making him – unsurprisingly – the tallest teenager ever. In 1936, the gentle giant graduated from high school and enrolled in college with the intention of studying law.


However, later that year he would embark on a tour with the hugely popular Ringling Brother Circus, which saw the giant earn worldwide fame. When asked in a radio interview if he was annoyed when people stared at him, he calmly replied, “No, I just overlook them.” The quiet, unassuming man took his new-found celebrity status in his stride, and used it to earn money from public appearances.

He also did a promotional tour with the International Show Company (now INTERCO), which agreed to make him shoes for free. This was a blessing for Robert, who had whopping 47-cm-long (18.5-in) feet – the equivalent of a US size 37AA (UK size 36, roughly a European size 75) – the largest feet ever. His shoes could cost as much as $100, equal to $1,500 (£1,026) in today’s currency. The Alton Giant also boasted the largest hands ever, measuring 32.3 cm (12.7 in) from the wrist to the tip of his middle finger.

Cause of Height

Doctors examined Robert and realized that his exceptional size was caused by hyperplasia of his pituitary gland. This condition causes an abnormally high level of the human growth hormone and Robert was never given any treatment to stop it. With a staggering peak daily food consumption of 8,000 calories, he actually continued to grow taller right up until his death.

Since then, medical technology and treatment has advanced significantly and people who suffer from pituitary gigantism – such as Sultan Kösen, the tallest man living as of 2017 – are able to have surgery to halt the production of the growth hormone.

Robert’s condition caused him to have difficulty getting around – he had leg braces and a walking stick, but never used a wheelchair.

End of the Tallest Man in the World

Sadly, it was Robert’s legs that caused his premature death, aged just 22 years old. He died at 1:30 a.m. on 15 July 1940 in a hotel in Manistee, Michigan, as a result of a septic blister on his right ankle caused by a brace, which had been poorly fitted only a week earlier. His last words were “The doctor says I won’t get home for the…celebrations”, a reference to his paternal grandparents’ golden wedding.

The Alton Giant was then buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Alton, in an enormous coffin measuring 3.28 m (10 ft 9 in) long, 81 cm (32 in) wide and 76 cm (30 in) deep.

The Tallest Man in Recent Time

Sultan Kösen was born 10 December 1982. He is a Turkish farmer who holds the Guinness World Record for tallest living male at 251 cm (8 ft 2.82 in).

Kösen, a Turkish man of ethnic Kurdish descent, was born in the village of Alibey in Mardin Province of Turkey. Kösen was unable to complete his education because of his height; he instead worked part-time as a farmer. He describes the advantages of being tall as being able to see a great distance and being able to help his family with domestic tasks such as changing light bulbs and hanging curtains.

He lists disadvantages as not being able to find clothes for his legs measuring 126 cm (49.61 in) and for his arms with a sleeve length measuring 97 cm (38.19 in) or shoes that fit (his once record-breaking length of 36.5 cm (14.4 in) for left and 35.5 cm (14.0 in) for right foot, whereas his hands are the longest measured in a living person at 28.5 cm (11.2 in), as well as finding it difficult to fit into an average-sized car.

Starting in 2010, Kösen received Gamma Knife treatment for his pituitary tumor at the University of Virginia Medical School and was provided with medication to control his excessive levels of growth hormone. It was confirmed in March 2012 that the treatment was effective in halting Kösen’s growth.

In October 2013, Kösen married Syrian-born Merve Dibo, who is ten years younger than him. In an interview, he said that his biggest problem with his wife is communication, as he spoke Turkish but his wife spoke only Arabic. The pair divorced in 2021 citing the language barrier as one of the key problems. Kösen hopes to marry another woman someday.

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