They Weren't Green, But Were the Giants Jolly?

By Holly Tucker

On January 21 1742, the minutes of the English Royal Society reported that:

"Daniel Cajanus a Finlander about thirty two years of age was brought into the Society as a Sight and an instance of one of a gigantic Size of human body.

He stood by one of the Pillars [at Crane Court] & his Height was marked, which measured seven feet four inches and a quarter, and the heels of his shoes were about an inch....The Man said his father was 6 1/2 feet in height, and his Mother six feet three inches and that he was brother to one of the name name shew'd for a sight in London some years ago. His servant affirmed that his usual mean was about 4 1/2 pound of meat.

But as some of the Society were of opinion that this Man was the very same person with the other formerly shown in London; there being a great resemblance in their Feature, tho' this seemed more proportionally made: the Revd. Dr. Pearce, who happen'd to be one of the tallest Gentlemen in the meeting, said he had some reason to think otherwise. For that he had observed he could not reach higher than the other man's forehead, yet he could reach about an inch above the forehead of this man."

This all leaves me to wonder the average height of NBA basketball players. And what a marvel they would be for these early members of the Royal Society!

And, apparently, WE can marvel at Cajanus's skeletal remains from the waist down at Leiden University's Museum of Anatomy and Embryology in Holland--where the bones are said to be on display...

Image: portrait of giant and dwarf, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (German, late 17th Century)

References: John H. Appleby, "Human Curiosities and the Royal Society, 1688-1751" Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 50 (1996): 13-27

Another favorite resource for marvels:
Lorraine Daston & Katharine Park. Wonders and the Order of Nature: 1150-1750 (New York: Zone, 1998).

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