People and Groups

Adam Rainer: The Giant and the Dwarf

Human genetics and biology are amazing, but they can also go awry causing numerous disorders. Genetics determine many characteristics about us including how tall we become. Most people grow to a standard height, give or take a few inches, but there are medical conditions that cause exceptions to this rule. Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca in Star Wars) and the late Andre the Giant are famous examples. Both men reached over seven feet tall due to gigantism and Marfan syndrome, respectively. Phineas T. Barnum made a fortune from the exploitation of curiosities such as bearded ladies and Fiji Mermaids. Had Barnum been alive at the time, he would almost certainly have drafted lifetime contracts for a special man named Adam Rainer. What makes Adam so unique is the fact that doctors labeled him as both a dwarf and as a giant over the course of his life.

Adam Rainer was both a dwarf and a giant

Doctors labeled Adam Rainer as both a dwarf and a giant at different times in his life.

Adam Rainer’s Story

Adam Rainer was an Austrian man born in Graz sometime in 1899. Both of his parents measured at average heights for men and women, as did his step-brother. Adam, however, didn’t. In 1917, the young man was subject to conscription, and he was medically tested as per the Austrian Army’s instruction. According to doctors administering those tests, Rainer was too small and weak to be an effective soldier. At the time, they measured his height at just four feet six inches. One year after, he had grown two inches more. Although Rainer was in good general health at the time, the military rejected him because of his height.

In 1920, Rainer celebrated his coming of age at 21 years old. Records show that he was still small, thin and weak. Something happened to him though. At a time when the average person stops growth, Rainer began to grow at an alarming rate. In the span of just one decade, Rainer went from four feet ten inches to a whopping seven feet one inch. Doctors were at a loss to fully understand why this occurred. The most logical conclusion they could muster was that it could be a tumor on Rainer’s pituitary gland causing an extreme case of Acromegaly. This is a medical condition that affects the amount of growth hormone produced. Outward symptoms can include enlarged hands and feet and possibly the forehead. Rainer had all three of these. Other effects of this condition can include myopia, joint pains, and migraine.

Deteriorating Health

Roughly half way through this spurt in his growth, Rainer began to suffer from deteriorating health issues. A spinal curvature became more pronounced and noticeable in 1926. His once healthy and normal appetite began to wane and the simple act of eating became more and more of a chore. As the decade wore on, Rainer began to lose vision in his right eye. It wouldn’t take too long for him to lose the use of it, but he was still able to read books. Other health issues began to appear too. Rainer became deaf in his left ear.

Between August 1930 and May 1931, doctors A. Mandl and F. Windholz examined Rainer. The first thing they checked was his height. The ailing man measured in at seven feet one inch, but owing to his spinal problems, he had a standing height of six feet nine inches The probable cause of his growth was confirmed. A tumor was discovered on his pituitary gland. The decision was taken to operate, and Professor O. Hirsch did the procedure on 2 December 1930. In May the following year, Rainer was measured again. His height was the same as the previous time, but his spinal problems were much more pronounced. It was the conclusion of the doctors that the operation wasn’t a successful one. At best, it just slowed down Rainer’s growth without stopping it.

Adam’s Medical Anomaly

Adam Rainer spent the latter years of his life bedridden. When he passed away in 1950, there was still debate surrounding his genuine height. Newspapers reporting his death stated that he was seven feet ten inches tall, but other sources claim that he was just a mere seven feet eight inches instead. Whatever his true height, one thing is not in dispute. Adam Rainer is the only person in medical history to have been classified as a dwarf and a giant.

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Les Hewitt

Les currently resides in London and is an ancient alien theorist. He has a long standing interest in the paranormal and the unexplained. In his spare time he enjoys astronomy and Xboxing. It's a big Universe out there.

Historic Mysteries