A history of record-breaking giants 100 years after the tallest man ever was born

By Rachel Swatman
Tallest people in the world

It's now more than 100 years since the tallest man ever was born.

Of course, no one anticipated his future as the world's tallest man when he entered the world on 22 February 1918 weighing an unremarkable 8.7 pounds, the son of average-sized parents.

But Robert Wadlow’s name is now known all over the globe – the towering American who measured a staggering 2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in) tall when last measured on 27 June 1940, becoming the tallest man in the world.

Robert Wadlow: ©Getty. Colourised by PMH

"This record resonates across the whole world because every country understands how powerful this record is," Craig Glenday, Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief.

We have created a timeline of the iconic giants who have graced the pages of the Guinness World Records annual, continuing to intrigue and amaze people all over the globe.

Learn more about the world’s tallest men in our podcast, Guinness World Records: Behind The Book, available on Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher.


Measuring 2.46m 8ft 1in, Patrick Cotter OBrien (1760-1806) earned the title of tallest Irishman. (Guinness World Records no longer monitor records based on countries or nationalities – just absolute, world records.)



The tallest teenager ever (female) recorded is Anna Haining Swan (Canada, born 6 August 1846; died 5 August 1888), who grew until she was 17, when she reached 241.3 cm (7 ft 11 in). By age four, Anna was said to have stood 137.16 cm (4 ft 6 in) tall and weighed 42.64 kg (94 lb). At six years old, she was reportedly taller than her 165.1-cm (5-ft 5-in) mother. 

On 17 June 1871, Anna married Martin van Buren Bates, who stood 236.22 cm (7 ft 9 in) tall, and they became the tallest married couple ever



Following a head injury at the age of 11, Jane 'Ginny' Bunford, (born 26 Jul 1895) of Birmingham, UK, became the tallest woman ever. Her skeleton, now preserved in the Anatomical Museum in the Medical School at Birmingham University, measures 223.5m (7ft 4in) high. 



Robert Wadlow’s first record title was the tallest teenager ever (male), measuring a huge 2.45 m (8 ft 0.5 in) at the age of 17. 


To-scale representation of GWR Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday and tallest man ever Robert Wadlow


The tallest man ever in medical history for whom there is irrefutable evidence is Robert Wadlow, who when last measured on 27 June 1940 was found to be 2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in) tall. 

He remains the tallest person in the world, ever.

"He couldn't go anywhere without being stared at and drawing a crowd. Some people would bother him, you know, because of his height. They might come up behind him and pinch his leg or something else, you know, or even maybe try to kick him in the shins, make sure he wasn't on stilts," Harold Wadlow - Robert's brother."

This chart documents his rapid rise from childhood up to his final measurement at the age of 22.

Tallest man ever chart


"Robert Wadlow escaped the attention of surgeons, as they were not confident enough to operate on him. Therefore he might remain the tallest man for a very long time," Dr Donald Rau, Medical Consultant, Guinness World Records.


American Don Koehler became the tallest man - living in 1970 at the age of 44, measuring 2.48 m (8 ft 2 in) tall.

Don lived in Denton, Montana, and had a twin sister who was 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in) tall.

Later on in life spinal curvature reduced his standing to 2.38 m (7ft 10 in) tall and died in Chicago in 1981.


Tallest man Don Koehler


The first time Guinness World Records officially recognised someone as the tallest woman living was in 1975. 

Sandy Allen (USA, born 18 June 1955) was last found to be 2 m 31.7 cm (7 ft 7.25 in). When she was born in Chicago, she weighed 2.95 kg (6 lb 7 oz) and her abnormal growth began soon after. 

She stood 1 m 90.5 cm (6 ft 3 in) tall by the age of 10 and was 2.16 m (7 ft 1 in) by 16. 


Sandy Allen


Zeng Jinlian (China, born 26 June 1964) of Yujiang village in the Bright Moon Commune, Hunan Province, measured 246.3 cm (8 ft 1 in) when she died on 13 February 1982. 

She began to grow abnormally from the age of four months, suffering from both scoliosis and diabetes, and stood 156 cm (5 ft 1 1/2 in) before her fourth birthday and 217 cm (7 ft 1 1/2 in) when she was aged 13. To this day she remains the tallest woman ever



Jumping ahead a few years, one of the more recent cases of a record-breaking giant is that of Yao Defen from China. She recorded an average height of 233.3 cm (7 ft 7 in) when last documented and achieved the tallest woman living title. 

Yao Defen sadly died in November 2012 which means we have no record holder for this category at present. 



Moroccan Brahim Takioullah (b. 26 January 1982) became the tallest person living after he was found to measure 246.3 cm (8 ft 0.97 in). He remains the tallest man in Morocco. 


His record was broken later that year by Turkey’s Sultan Kösen (born 10 December 1982) who measured 251 cm (8 ft 2.8 in) in Ankara, Turkey, on 8 February 2011. 

Sultan’s huge height is also the result of an over-active pituitary gland, although his was caused by the presence of a tumour. Since the tumour was operated on in 2010, tests have seen Sultan’s hormone levels return to normal, so he’s unlikely to grow further

Sultan also currently boasts the largest hands, at 28.5 cm (11.2 in) from wrist to fingertip. 



When Sun Mingming married Xu Yan (both China), they became the tallest married couple living, having a combined height of 423.47 cm (13 ft 10.72 in). Measuring 236.17 cm (7 ft 8.98 in), Sun also holds the title of tallest basketball player



The tallest ballet dancer is Fabrice Calmels (France, b. 18 September 1980), who measured 199.73 cm (6 ft 6.63 in) in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on 25 September 2014. 


Tallest ballet dancer

Meanwhile Venezuelan Jeison Orlando Rodriguez Hernandez has held the record for largest feet on a living person (male) since 2014 when the right was 40.1 cm (1 ft 3.79 in) and his left foot measured 39.6 cm (1 ft 3.59 in).

Since then they've grown even further; as of 3 June 2018 he had measurements of 40.55 cm (1 ft 3.96 in) and 40.47 cm (1 ft 3.93 in) for his right and left feet respectively.

Largest feet Jeison foot measuring in Germany 3

2018 was a big year for Jeison as he also travelled to Germany to get new shoes made by Wessels, a family business which specialises in producing customised shoes for those with enormous feet

Later that year the 7 ft 2.6 in (220 cm) tall record-breaker flew to Italy to star in La Notte dei Record (The Night of Records) where he spoke to us about his dreams for the future.



Three years ago, Kevin Bradford (USA, b. 27 October 1998) took the title of tallest teenager living (male), measuring 215.9 cm (7 ft 1 in). However, he’s still 1 ft shorter than Wadlow’s all-time teen height record. Now aged 20, this record is open for a new tall teen to take. 



The tallest professional model is Ekaterina Lisina (Russia), who is 205.16 cm (6 ft 8.77 in) tall as measured in Labinsk, Russia, on 20 July 2017. She also has the longest legs (female)



Julie Felton (UK) is 6 ft 5 in tall. She also has the largest feet (female).

When measured in March 2019 her right foot was found to be 32.9 cm (1 ft 0.95 in) while the left came in at 32.73 cm (1 ft 0.88 in).