When I was a kid, and before I learned that its contents rarely changed dramatically, the Guinness Book of World Records was an annual Christmas gift.

Once I opened it, and all the gift-giving activities had subsided, I would disappear into my room for hours to be endlessly fascinated by those people, places, things, and events that accomplished something or just WERE something that couldn't be surpassed.

Because of my love for such statistics, it became a bigger deal than most would have thought when, in 1979, I traveled with my parents to St. Louis so my dad could deliver a body--he worked at Davis Funeral Home--and then joined them for a visit to Upper Alton Cemetery in Alton, Illinois. It's right across the river from St. Louis.

While Dad was conducting whatever business that brought him there, Mom and I went for a walk through the cemetery grounds on our way to the gravesite of Robert Wadlow.

THE TALLEST HUMAN WHO EVER LIVED

Now, I'm a tall individual at 6'5". But that means I'm nearly TWO AND A HALF FEET SHORTER than Wadlow, who was last measured at 8'11.1" tall just a couple of weeks before he passed away.

Now you may be wondering how Norris and Ross McWhirter--the founders of the Guinness Book or World Records--knew without a doubt that Robert Wadlow was the tallest person who'd ever lived. Here's what the twin brothers had to say in that regard:

The only admissible evidence upon the true height of giants is that of recent date made under impartial medical supervision.
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HOW ROBERT WADLOW COMPARES TO OTHER CELEBRITIES

Take a look at a comparison between Robert Wadlow and other celebrities:

A RECORD THAT HAS YET TO BE BROKEN

This record has been a source of great interest for current Guinness editor-in-chief Craig Glenday, who has exhaustively investigated tall humans the world over for years. And why not? He's got that little record book to maintain. And so far, he hasn't found anyone taller than Robert.

WHO IS THE TALLEST LIVING HUMAN?

The tallest LIVING human is a 39-year-old Turkish farmer named Sultan Kösen who stands 8'3" tall, a full EIGHT inches shorter than Wadlow.

WHAT IS GIGANTISM?

So what causes these amazing and unusual spikes in stature, or gigantism? Well, it's nothing to take lightly, says the UCLA School of Medicine.

Gigantism is a serious condition that is nearly always caused by an adenoma, a tumor of the pituitary gland. Gigantism occurs in patients who had excessive growth hormone in childhood. The pituitary tumor cells secrete too much growth hormone (GH), leading to many changes in the body.

After a life-saving procedure that required stopping the production of excess growth hormone, Kösen stopped growing.

THE DEATH OF ROBERT WADLOW

While his growth disorder would have let to serious health concerns, Wadlow's death was not directly attributed to it. He had to wear braces on his legs for years in order to support his frame. One of them didn't fit very well and rubbed a sore into his ankle. After it became infected--something of which Robert was unaware--he developed a high fever which, combined with an autoimmune disorder worsened by the gigantism, led to his death in 1940 at the age of 22.

A TRIBUTE TO ROBERT WADLOW

In 1986, a statue was erected in Alton to honor its most famous citizen.

Had medical technology been as advanced in 1940 as it is today, Robert Wadlow might have lived a MUCH longer life, although he would likely have still passed away by 2022. He would be over 100 years old.

As for Sultan Kösen, he's married and has parlayed his enormous size into a circus gig and a couple of film roles. But mainly he travels the world as an ambassador for Turkey.

As for the Guinness Book of World Records' Craig Glenday, he will always have his ear to the ground looking for the next world record-breaker, although he and Guinness have admitted that Wadlow's record will likely never be broken.

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