Above and beyond the call of duty. A Gulliver among the Lilliputians. Robert Wadlow was the tall boy. The beanstalk. Wadlow didn’t mind the jokes about the weather up there, but there were worse drawbacks to being the tallest man in the United States…
…For most of his life Wadlow had been remarkably healthy, but by the time he was twenty-one he had grown so tall, 8 feet 8 1/4 inches, that his body began to fail him. Among other troubles, he lost all sensation in his legs below the calf, and had to wear metal braces. In early July of 1940, not long after he had again been measured and found to be 8 feet 11.09 inches tall, Wadlow drove with his father to Manistee, Michigan, where he was scheduled to appear in a fourth of July parade.
On the afternoon of July 4, 1940, he suddenly developed a fever and doctors from the Manistee hospital discovered that he had a serious infection in his left ankle caused by the rubbing of a badly fitted brace. Anyone else would have felt the pain days earlier, but Wadlow, having no feelings in his lower legs, had not become aware of the infection until it was dangerously advanced. Thus, at 1:30 A.M. on July 15,1940, at the age of twenty-two, Robert Pershing Wadlow died in Manistee, Michigan, the victim of a bizarre side effect of his incredible height.
(see link at end)…In his classic 1928 essay “On Being the Right Size”, evolutionary biologist and geneticist J.B.S. Haldane lays out the basic problem with all this, using a famous literary example:
Let us…consider a giant man sixty feet high-about the height of Giant Pope and Giant Pagan in the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress of my childhood. These monsters were not only ten times as high as Christian, but ten times as wide and ten times as thick, so that their total weight was a thousand times his, or about eighty to ninety tons. Unfortunately the cross sections of their bones were only a hundred times those of Christian, so that every square inch of giant bone had to support ten times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, Pope and Pagan would have broken their thighs every time they took a step. This was doubtless why they were sitting down in the picture I remember.
The human frame is very specifically adapted to be roughly between five and six feet tall, give or take a few inches in either direction. (Indeed, one statistical analysis finds that 96% of all Ameirican men are between 5’4″ and 6’4″.) You don’t need to be anywhere close to sixty feet tall to begin placing unbearable structural pressures on your bones, and it’s probably somewhere not much taller than Robert Wadlow’s 8’11″ stature where the strain becomes impossible.
This is borne out by pre
much every case of extreme height – all twelve people who were known to be taller than eight feet dealt with serious height-related medical issues, generally experiencing severe curvature of the spine, being unable to walk without the help of braces, and dealing with a severely reduced life expectancy.Read More:http://io9.com/robert-pershing-wadlow/