On September 17, 2009, Guinness World Records announced that Sultan Kösen, a part-time farmer in Turkey, was the tallest man in the world. Thanks to a tumor affecting his pituitary gland, he now stands in at a whopping 8 foot, 3 inches tall. But is Kösen the tallest man in history? Or have other even larger giants roamed the Earth?
Who is the Tallest Man in Recorded History?
According to Guinness, there are only ten “confirmed or reliable cases in history of humans reaching 8 feet or more.” Nine of these people are men and one is a woman.
The tallest woman in known history, as well as the tallest overall person in the history of China, was Zeng Jinlian. She was born in 1964 and died in 1982. Believe it or not, she did most of her growing as a toddler, reaching the extraordinary height of 5 feet, 1.5 inches by the age of 4. Her tallest recorded height was 8 feet, 1.75 inches, which was taken shortly before her death.
Amazingly, the tallest man in known history isn’t Sultan Kösen. Instead, that honor belongs to Robert “The Alton Giant” Wadlow. For several years, he was a well-known American celebrity, thanks in part to a stint he did with the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1936. Wadlow was born in 1918 and passed away in 1940. Less than three weeks before his death, he was measured at 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall. Similar to Kösen, Wadlow suffered from a problem with his pituitary gland and it’s believed he may have still been growing right up until his passing.
Who is the Tallest Man in History?
While Wadlow is the tallest man in confirmed history, there are other disputed claims to his title.
- John Aasen (1890-1938): American silent film actor. His skeleton measures 7 feet, 2.4 inches. However, he lost some height toward the end of his life and some people believe he may have measured 8 feet, 11.5 inches earlier in his life.
- John Middleton (1578-1623): Also known as the Childe of Hale. Although his true history is somewhat muddled by folklore, it’s believed he might have been taller than 9 feet. His gravestone is marked with the words, “Here lyeth the bodie of John Middleton the Childe of Hale. Nine feet three.”
- Feodor Machnow (1878-1912): Also known as the Russian Giant. His tallest official measurement of 7 feet, 10 inches was taken at the age of 16. However, his wife claimed that he added height afterward, and eventually reached a towering 9 feet, 3 inches. Skeptics point out that Machnow was known for wearing a gigantic Russian Cossack fur hat and tall boots, which might account for the discrepancy.
- The Giant of Castelnau (9500 BC?): In 1890, anthropologist Georges Vacher de Lapouge discovered the bones of the Giant at a French cemetery (pictured above). While the bones themselves have since disappeared, de Lapouge described them in La Nature as being appropriate for a person who stood about 11 feet, 6 inches. This discovery was followed up with other discoveries of gigantic bones in another French cemetery, which were sent to the Paris Academy for examination. Unfortunately, these bones appear to have vanished as well although it’s believed they may have “belonged to a race of men between ten and fifteen feet in height.”
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Interestingly enough, many ancient myths and folklore describes strange “giant-like” humans. So, the idea of a man standing at 11 feet, 6 inches might not be as crazy as it first sounds. Still, until the original bones are located or more bones are found, the titleholder for tallest man in history will continue to belong to the enormous Robert Wadlow.