Adam Rainer as a young man
Adam Rainer as a young man

Very few details are known about the life of Adam Rainer, but in a way, he represents an extraordinary piece of medical history. He was born in Graz, Austria in 1899, and as he grew and matured, it became evident that his stature was significantly shorter than the average man. In 1920, when he was 21 years old, he stood only 3 feet 10.5 inches (1.18 m) tall. Physicians officially classified him as a dwarf.

But sometime in his early twenties Rainer experienced an inexplicable and astonishing growth spurt, and by his 32nd birthday, his unusually short stature of under four feet had increased to an unusually tall stature of just under 7 feet 2 inches (2.18 m). This incredible sustained rate of growth—about 3.6 inches per year—exhausted his body and soon left him bedridden.

It seemed that the secretions from the poor chap’s pituitary gland—the gland responsible for the body’s growth hormones—went from a trickle to a flood shortly after his 21st birthday. The malfunctioning organ caused his body to devote all of its resources to unchecked growth, eventually leaving him weak and unable to stand. In December 1930, when Rainer was 31 years old, a brain surgeon put Rainer under local anesthesia and inserted instruments into his nose in order to gain access to the pituitary, a tiny structure which is located at the hard-to-reach base of the brain. The surgeon found and excised an eosinophilic adenoma, a benign tumor that had been pressing upon the pituitary. This procedure dramatically decelerated Rainer’s growth, but much damage was already done.

Adam Rainer before he lost the ability to stand unassisted. The scale in in centimeters.
Adam Rainer before he lost the ability to stand unassisted. The scale in in centimeters.

Adam Rainer spent the rest of his days unable to stand on his own. He was later admitted to a “home of the aged” where he lived in this unfortunate condition until he died on March 4, 1950, aged 51. At the time of his death, he was measured at 7 feet 8 inches tall (2.34 m), twice the height he been at age 21. In his life he had been the tallest man in Austria. To date, Adam Rainer is the only person in medical history to have been classified both as a dwarf and a giant.