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Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918 - 1940) was and is the tallest human recorded in modern times. (See Goliath for an ancient record of a taller man). Wadlow reached 272 cm (8'11") in height and 490 pounds (222 kg) in weight before his death at the age of 22. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood were due to a tumor within his pituitary gland.
Wadlow was born in Alton, Illinois on February 22, 1918, at the weight of 8 pounds, 6 ounces (3.80 kg). He attracted attention due to his rapid growth when all his four siblings grew at a more normal speed. At the age of 13, he became the world's tallest Boy Scout at the height of 7'4" (224 cm). By age 18, Wadlow had grown to be 8'4" (254 cm) and weigh 390 pounds (177 kg); his size 37 shoes cost $100.00 a pair. In 1936, after graduating from Alton High School, he enrolled in Shurtleff College with the intention of studying law. By 1937, Wadlow had exceeded all previous recorded human heights. However, his size began to take its toll: he required leg braces to walk, and had little sensation in his legs and feet.
In his time, Wadlow was among the most popular of American celebrities; he was well-known due to his 1936 U.S. tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus and his 1938 promotional tour with the International Shoe Company . He continued participating in various tours and public appearances until his death.
On July 4, 1940, Wadlow was hospitalized in Manistee, Michigan while on tour; a faulty brace had irritated his ankle, causing a blister and bad infection. Doctors treated him with blood transfusions and emergency surgery but his fever only worsened. On July 15, 1940, he died in his sleep. He was buried in Alton on July 19.
In 1984, his hometown raised a life-size bronze statue in his memory. To this day he is still affectionately known as the "Gentle Giant".