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The Man Who Was a Dwarf and a Giant

Article #64 • Written by Alan Bellows

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.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 01 December 2005. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows.

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Posted 01 December 2005 at 04:39 pm

Hmm... where did you get this from?

Alan Bellows
Posted 01 December 2005 at 05:18 pm

Adam Rainer is briefly mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records for the record of "most variable stature." Other details were from various places. And I created the image based on the data.

Posted 01 December 2005 at 09:50 pm

A fantastic entry! Damn Interesting almost always lives up to its name.

Posted 02 December 2005 at 06:53 am

I totally agree! DAMN INTERESTING

Posted 02 December 2005 at 11:20 am

perhaps it was a metric conversion mistake.

Thy Hangman
Posted 06 December 2005 at 08:40 pm

The growing pains must have been unbareable.

Posted 07 December 2005 at 03:28 pm

Theme song plays.


Posted 12 December 2005 at 10:10 am

Well, I just wrote today about my mysterious three-inch growth spurt in my middle age. Someone sent me over here immediately after writing it. I guess that's more sensible than my Aliens theory:

So I suppose it's just one *more* thing wrong with me. Crap.

Posted 23 October 2006 at 02:53 pm

I dont have a clue what to say about this exept "Weird"!

Posted 09 January 2007 at 12:14 am

All I can say is "wow!"

I'm reminded of Orson Scott Card's "Shadow" series of books... "Ender's Shadow" through "Shadow of the Giant". Although, in that book the poor guy's being small at first was just that he was very young and a super-genius... and had a genetic mutation that wouldn't allow his growing to end at adulthood.

Posted 12 October 2007 at 07:57 am

Wish I knew the mechanics that made this dude grow. Being 5' 5" I wouldnt mind having a couple inches to my height so I'm not short around all my friends. I seem to only make friends with people in the 5 8 to 6 2 range. Is there such a thing as token short guy? Welp, at least I fit into my 2-DR saturn just fine, and I dont hit my head on low hanging objects. Tallness is overrated. Think maybe this was one of those "I wish I was tall, then they'd see." Then this dude grows uncontrollably until he dies from it.

Posted 16 July 2009 at 08:12 pm

If you think about it kinda proves that you can grow even after your growth plates close. Yes it may be by a glandular problem but he still grew.

Posted 13 September 2009 at 10:49 am

Couldn't they have given him drugs to inhibit the growth hormone? or done something with his pituitary gland?

Posted 15 February 2010 at 07:57 pm

Enter your comment here.
axe86, unless you have x-rays taken when he was 21 that show his growth plates were closed, this doesn't prove anything. Much more likely is that the hormonal problem which caused his initial slow growth also delayed maturation of the bones such that the growth plates didn't close

Posted 21 June 2010 at 08:45 am

DamnAwesome, true what you are saying.
But here is something to ponder; this article says that by 32nd birthday he was 2.18 m and and at this deathbed (age 51) was measured 2.34 m. That means he grew after his 32nd birthday by an additional 16 cm! Are you telling me that his growth plates hadn't closed after all that time?!
Although it is said that you MUST have growth plates to grow. But I do wonder if there are any exceptions to that? I mean, if it's absolutely so, what would've happened if there were definitely no growth plates to Rainer but still had his excessive growth hormone production. What would've happened? Would that manifest differently, if it couldn't have been to put to use to grow?

Alan Bellows, what do you say?

Posted 09 March 2014 at 11:32 pm

Interesting wonderful. But its abnormal and unfortunate condition.

Posted 17 April 2014 at 11:10 am

So he was basically a real-life Bean from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow series.

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