Robert Wadlow died 70 years old today, in 1940, aged 22 and heighted 8 feet and 11.1 inches tall.
If “heighted” is a word. In any case, Wadlow was the world’s tallest man by far, then and now. He makes the current tallest man, 7-foot-9-inch Bao Xishun, look a benchwarmer on the Lollipop Guild basketball team. (Bao is a good egg who saves dolphins on demand, so he seems taller.)
We’ve read a lot about Robert Wadlow over the years, and it’s a touching story. He was embraced as a regular joe by his hometown of Alton, Illinois, where he attended normal school classes and collected stamps. At age 13 he was “the world’s tallest Boy Scout at seven feet, four inches,” according to the excellent Alton Museum of History.
Pituitary problems meant he just kept growing, and with his size 36 (!) feet he ended up traveling the country as a goodwill ambassador for the International Shoe Company. Alas, Wadlow’s feet were his downfall: he couldn’t feel blisters forming, and a blister led to the infection that killed him at a terribly young age. A full-length bronze statue now stands in Alton in his memory.
Best wishes, Robert Wadlow, wherever you are. Here’s hoping you’re on a golf course with Leon Trotsky and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who died that same year.