He was born on February 22, 1918 in Alton, Illinois (USA). He was the first of five children born to his parents, Harold and Addie Wadlow. They went on to have two more boys and two girls. Surprisingly, both his brothers and sisters were only normal height and weight. Robert’s own weight when he was born was nothing out of the ordinary: 3.85 kg (8 lb 8 oz). In fact, for the first two years of his life, his growth rate was normal. When he was two years old, he had to undergo a double hernia operation. It’s impossible to say if there was a connection to that, but since then, things started to change drastically.
Its growth rate increased remarkably. By the time he was 5 years old, he reached a height of 1.63 meters (5 feet 4 inches) and reached 6 feet when he was only 8 years old. Over the next 4 years he grew an average of 2.5 inches per year until he was 12 years old, when his height reached 2.10 meters (6 feet 10.5 inches).
In the next 3 years, its growth rate accelerated even more. He grew another 9.5 inches (24 cm) so that he was 7 feet 8 inches (2.34 meters) when he was 15 years old. During the 2 years after that, their growth rate slowed slightly to just over 2 inches per year. When he was 17, his height was 2.45 meters (8 feet 0.38 inches), but he couldn’t stop growing.
The following year, it grew another 8 cm (just over 3 inches), but only 2 inches the following year. He was now 19 years old and his height was 2.58 meters (8 feet 5.5 inches).
In the next 2 years, its growth rate slowed to its slowest rate for quite some time, but it still continued to grow. When his adolescence came to an end, his height reached 2.61 meters (8 feet 6.75 inches). He was 2.65 meters (8 feet 8.25 inches) when he was 21 years old. His last recorded measurement was 2.72 meters (8 feet 11.1 inches) when he was 22 years and 5 months old.
As you can imagine, I couldn’t walk in public without attracting attention. People would inevitably stare at him and crowds would gather around him. Some people, quite cruelly, kicked or pinched his legs to check that he was not on stilts.
His extreme height obviously made life difficult for him. He couldn’t function the way people of normal height do. I couldn’t go by bus, train, or plane. The seats were only made for people 6 feet and under. He was healthy despite all that, but he did suffer from circulation problems in his legs and did not have much sensation in his feet.
Not only was he the tallest man of all time, but he also had the largest hands and feet of all time. His shoes had to be specially made, as did his clothes. Their shoe size was 36 (37AA for US measurements), they were 47cm (18.5 inches) long.
Human growth is caused by a hormone called “somatotropin”, the source of which is provided by the “pituitary gland”. When he was 12 years old, doctors discovered that this gland had become overactive, which was causing its abnormal growth. His parents were informed that corrective surgery would be risky with no guarantee of success, so they decided not to do it.
Robert died sadly in his sleep on July 15, 1940. He was buried in his hometown. His coffin was 3.28 meters (10 feet 9 inches) long and had to be carried by 12 men. The city closed its operations out of respect and more than 40,000 people signed the registry at his funeral.