Throughout the history, people were always amazed by plethora of stories and legends about mythical giants, people or gods reaching incredible heights. While most of them were nothing more than myths, for instance Goliath, King Og or the Titans, some of these legends were based on real foundations.
We have many records of incredibly high people living in the past. Although some of them are greatly exaggerated, many are backed by solid evidence. In this article, we are going to explore the lives and feats of 5 most famous historical ”giants”, and maybe even find out how they grew to such an exceptional height.
Robert Pershing Wadlow, often known as the Giant of Illinois, was the tallest man who ever lived.
Robert Pershing Wadlow, compared to his father Harold Wadlow (measuring 5 feet 11 1⁄2 inches)
Born to Addie Johnson and Harold Wadlow in Alton, Illinois on 22.nd of February, 1918, he was the oldest of five children. Few months after his birth, he was diagnosed gigantism, a rare genetic disorder that causes over-production of growth hormone. During his childhood, he was growing rapidly, reaching height of more than 3 feet 6 inches(106 cm) at the age of only 11 months, outgrowing both of his parents at the age of six and reaching 200 cm at the age of eleven.
During elementary school, he had to sit in special desk made for him, because of his exceptional heigh and weight(180 pounds). In 1936, after he graduated from Alton High School, he was 8 feet 4 inches (2.55 m) tall. His size soon began to take its tool; Robert Wadlow needed special leg braces to be able to walk, and lost feeling in his feet. However, he never used a wheelchair.
Shoe of Robert Wadlow
In 1936, Wadlow went on a U.S. Tour with the Ringling Bros. Circus, and continued to participate in various tours and public appearances, until his death in 1940, caused by parasitic infection(only 22 years old). After his death, he was buried on July 19, in a 10-feet long(3 m) long coffin, weighing more than 1,100 pounds. Thousands of people attended his funeral in Upper Alton.
Eighteen days before his death, he was measured at 8 feet 11.1 inches(2.72 m), more than any other human in history. His shoe size was 37AA, largest in the world, and at the age of 21, one year before his death, his weight was recorded as being 492 pounds.
Little known fact; Robert Wadlow was also a Freemason, and his ceremonial ring was the largest ever made.
Although this Scottish-born Canadian(1825 – 1863) was not as tall as other people on this list, he was the tallest recorded ”natural giant” in history, suffering from no growth abnormalities, with perfectly normal proportions. He was also the strongest man to live in modern history, and had the largest chest circumference of any non-obese man; about 80 inches(200 cm).
Angus MacAskill was born in the Hebrides, Scotland, in year 1825. According to historical sources, as a baby, he was not as large as the other children.During his childhood, he was also of normal stature, however, after he entered puberty, he started to grow rapidly and by his 24.th birthday he had attained about 7 feet 9 inches(2.36 cm). During much of his adulthood, he is said to weigh more than 500 pounds (230 kg). His hands were eight inches wide and more than a foot long, and his shoes 17.5 inches(44 cm) long. According to historical sources, Angus McAskill had deep-set blue eyes, curly black hair, a deep musical voice, and a pleasant personality.
McAskill was well-known for his immense strength. He allegedly managed to lift an 2,800-pound(1,300 kg) ship anchor to shoulder height, and easily carried barrels full of wine under his arms. In year 1849, he started to work for the P.T.Barnum’s circus, touring the Caribbean in 1853. He frequently appeared with Tom Thumb, a natural midget 3 feet 4 inches(102 cm) tall. In year 1854, he allegedly visited Queen Victoria in the Windsor Castle.
Grave of Angus Macaskill
However, in 1856, during his famous anchor lifting, he accidentally broke his arm when one of his shoulders got caught under one of the anchor’s flukes, ending his circus career.
In August 8, 1863, McAskill died peacefully after a week-long ilness. Exact cause of death remains unknown, but it was probably meningitis.
John Rogan, the second tallest person to ever live, was born in Tennessee, between years 1865 and 1868(exact year unknown). During his childhood, he was of normal stature, however, only until his 13.th birthday, when he started to grow rapidly.
However, his growth soon led to the development of severe ankylosis(stifness of joints), leaving him completely unable to stand or walk. He then used a goat cart to get around. By year 1899, he had already reached a height of 8 feet 6 inches(2.59), and became a local celebrity, often known as the ”Negro giant”. Known for his friendly personality and exceptionally deep voice, he earned for a living by selling portraits and postcards at local train station.
His hands were 11 inches(28 cm) long and his feet 13 inches(33 cm) long. At the time he died in September 1905, he was measured at 8 feet 9 inches(2.67), however, he weighed only 175 pounds. That makes him the second tallest person in history, and also the tallest African American ever recorded.
His body was buried in Sumner County, Tennessee, under concrete panels, preventing anyone to exhume and further examine his remains.
Zeng Jinlian(1964-1982) was the tallest female ever measured in medical history, surpassing the historical world record 7 feet 11 inches, previously set by English woman Jane Bunford(1895-1922). She is also the only woman who has reached verified height of 8 feet or more.
She was born on June 26 1964 in Yuian, China. 4 months after her birth, she started growing rapidly, and at age 4 ,she had already reached height of more than five feet. Her growth patterns exhibited exceptional similarity to these of Robert Wadlow. On average, she grew 5 inches every year, was able to lift a 110 pound(50 kg) stone at the age of 5, and slept in specially made bed, 8 feet long.
Zheng Jinlian was later diagnosed pituitary tumor, which caused her gigantism, and she was also suffering from diabetes, disease that also caused her death at the age of 17 in Hunan. Few days before her death, she would have been 8 feet 1.75 inches tall, but she could not stand straight because of her severely deformed spine.
However, reports about people of immense stature are not limited to modern times.
Maximinus Thrax(Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus Augustus), also known as emperor Maximinus I, was an Emperor of Rome in years 235-238. Born in Thrace, hence the name Thrax, he was the first emperor never to enter the Rome.
Bust of Emperor Maximinus Thrax
Contemporary sources, most prominent being Historia Augusta depicted Maximinus Thrax as a man of immense size, exhibiting large eyebrows, nose and jaw(symptom of acromegaly). His thumb was allegedly so large, that he often wore a bracelet of his wife as a ring on it. Famous historian Herodian noted:
“He was definitely a man of such frightening appearance and colossal size, that there is no possible comparison at all with any of the best-trained Greek athletes or the most fierce of all barbarians.”
According to historian Cordus, he was approximately 8 foot 6 inches(2.5 m) tall, but exhibiting normal proportions(similar to Angus McAskill). In his works, Cordus notes, that Maximinus was so strong that he could pull an fully loaded ox cart on his own.
While the exact size of Maximinus will be never known, he was likely to be a man of immense size and significantly taller than than the average Roman citizen of his time.