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What's so special being tall?

Do tall men tower over the short ones in more than just physical stature? Does height breed respect, so that tall people get showered with praise and recognition? In other words, do tall people succeed because of how others see them, or do they succeed because of how they see themselves?

That sounds like the kind of question you could argue for years and never settle, but three clever economists have gone


Gentle Giant: Robert Wadlow, Tallest man ever - died 1940

 ahead and settled it. Their names are Nicola Persico, Andy Postlewaite, and Dan Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania, USA and they've uncovered a key bit of evidence.

It's hard to imagine how or why employers could discriminate in favour of height, they say. If tall adolescents grow up to be highly paid workers, it's because they've got some other trait that employers' value. Persico, Postlewaite, and Silverman believe that trait is self-esteem. If tall secondary-school kids learn to think of themselves as leaders, that habit of thought persists even when the kids stop growing. That is the secret. That argument pretty much rules out discrimination.

How much is "tall"? The concept of "what is tall" can vary by average height of any given population. In Sri Lanka the average height of a male is supposed to be 5 feet 6 inch and any male over 6 feet 2 inch is considered 'tall.' Even in countries such as the USA and the United Kingdom and where average height is around 5ft 10 inch, a male of 6ft 6 inches is significantly far above average.

Robert Wadlow

Have you heard about the tallest man ever recorded in history? His name is Robert Pershing Wadlow. He was born in 1918 and died in 1940. According to the Guinness World Records, he is the tallest person in medical history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He is often known as the Alton Giant.

Wadlow reached an unprecedented 8 foot 11.1 inches in height and weighed 199 kg at his death. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood were due to a tumour within his pituitary gland. He showed no indication of an end to his growth even at the time of his death.

At birth, Wadlow weighted of 3.8 kg and had normal height. His height increased normally until he was four years old.

He then started attracting attention due to his rapid growth. By the age of eight, he was 6 feet 2 inches tall. At the age of 13,


The Mast: Bao Xishun, tallest living man according to Guinness World Records

he became the world's tallest Boy Scout at the height of 7 feet 4 inches, averaging a growth of 4 inches per year since birth.

At 16, Wadlow was 7 feet 10.5 inches tall and weighed 166 kg. By 18, Wadlow had grown to be 8 feet 4 inches and weighed more than 177 kg. In 1936, after graduating from Alton High School, he enrolled in Shurtleff College with the intention of studying law. On his 21st birthday he has reached 8 feet 8 1/2 inches.

Wadlow's size began to take its toll: he required leg braces to walk, and had little feeling in his legs and feet. On June 27, 1940 (eighteen days before his death), he was measured at 8 feet 11.09 inches by two doctors of Washington University.

In 1985, a life-size bronze statue of Wadlow was erected at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Dental Medicine. To this day he is still affectionately known as the "Gentle Giant."

Ajaz Ahmed

Ajaz Ahmed (born. 1976) is a Pakistani man claiming to be the world's tallest living person. He is said to be 8 feet 4 inches tall.

He suffers from an orthopaedic problem that afflicted his right leg after he underwent surgery for a hip-bone fracture. He was a farmer from a poor family when he came to the notice of a Pakistani social worker, Talat Mehmood.

Recollecting his experience of travelling with Ajaz to Dubai, Mr. Mehmood said, "Seating him was a big problem. Finally the hostesses managed to pinch four seats in the business class and he was put into ease." He added that people gathered


Tallest living person: Ajaz Ahmed, claiming to be the world’s tallest man, with his family.

 around him wherever he went.

Leonid Stadnyk

Born 1971 in Ukrainia, Leonid is a controversial claimant to the status of the world's tallest living man. He is a certified veterinary surgeon and lives with his mother in the village of Podolyantsi, Ukraine. He claimed to be 8 feet 4 inches tall, weighed about 200 kg in April, 2004.

Thereafter he has stopped growing because the tumour in his pituitary gland which caused him to grow so large has disappeared. He also claims to have the largest palm size recorded, 121/4 inches long.

A Pravda news report in spring 2006 confirmed that Leonid Stadnyk was 8 feet 5 inches tall. According to Pravda, his health is slowly failing in that he needs to hold on to limbs of trees and the side of his house to walk about. A group of Ukrainian business people donated a satellite dish and a computer to Stadnyk and now he is on the Internet.

Vikas Kumar Uppal

Vikas is a native and resident of India, and has jumped into the bandwagon claiming to be the world's tallest living man. On 12 January 2004, The Tribune reported him to be 8 feet 3 inches tall and still growing, being in his late teens. On 10 June 2005, rediff.com reported him to be 8 ft 9 inches tall.

Vikas is from Haryana and was seen and photographed for The Hindu on 25 September 2006 at a rally held by the Indian National Lok Dal to commemorate the 93rd birthday of the former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal. He has also been said to have hands 13 inches long and feet 19 inches long, and appears in photographs to be a pathological giant.

Bao Xishun

Bao, also known as "The Mast" was born in China, 1951. He is a herdsman from Mongolia and, since January 15, 2005, has


Pathological giant: Vikas Kumar Uppal, another claimant for the tallest man in the world

been recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's tallest living man.

Measured at 7 ft 8.95 ins tall Bao Xishun has no growth disorder like gigantism - unlike Robert Wadlow, and the tallest living man claimants, Leonid Stadnyk and Ajaz Ahmed and Vikas Uppal. These claims are supposed to be "controversial" and therefore not currently accepted by Guinness. Bao suffers from rheumatism, although this has been attributed to his childhood habit of sleeping outdoors, rather than a height-linked disorder.

Bao Xishun claims to have been of normal height until he was 16 when he experienced a growth spurt for unknown reasons and reached his present height seven years later. Bao served in the People's Liberation Army for three years, and played for the army basketball team until his rheumatism began to appear, leading to his discharge from the Army. Following this, he returned to Mongolia to live with his mother.

Following his mother's death when he was 40, however, he became withdrawn until he was offered a job as a greeter at a restaurant.

He quickly gained attention from local media, who applied to Guinness World Records on his behalf. He was measured, and found to be 2 mm taller than the previous record holder, Radhouane Charbib.

In December 2006, Bao Xishun was asked by veterinarians to assist them in removing shards of plastic from the stomachs of


Controversial claimant: Leonid Stadnyk, also believed to be the tallest man in the world

 two dolphins. The dolphins had accidentally swallowed the shards, which had settled in their stomachs and caused a loss of appetite and depression.

Veterinarians had failed to remove them, so Bao Xishun used his 1.06 metre-long arms to reach into the dolphins' stomachs, to remove the plastic manually. Bao Xishun married Xiang Gonghe - a saleswoman on 24 March 2007.

(Postscript: Dr Michele Belot and Dr Marco Francesconi, two social scientists of University of Essex, say that taller men are more likely to be preferred by women. Their survey confirms it. This is a good message for our tall single males who want to be big hits among ladies! However, they must remember the bottom line - It may pay to be tall but definitely not too tall.)

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