Outgrowing Life (Robert Wadlow)

Robert Wadlow was the tallest person that ever lived. He suffered from a rare condition known as Acromegaly where the anterior hypophysis produces excess growth hormone after the epiphyseal plates close. At the time of his death at only 22 years of age Wadlow measured 272 cm. His early death is no exception: contrary to the popular believe that tall people are strong people they often do not live to a very old age. The average age of the 10 tallest people that ever lived is only 36 years. The tallest girl that ever lived was Zeng Jinlian who died when she was only 17.

Being tall is hard work and big size carries unsuspected risks. Wadlow, like most people over 8 feet, needed braces to walk, and experienced some numbness in his legs and feet. In the end this relatively small discomfort killed him. He didn’t notice an infected blister on his foot and died from blood poisoning. If anything, his death holds a warning for humanity. If we grow beyond the body’s natural limits we cannot expect it to respond in its natural way if something goes wrong.

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