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Boruwlaski, Joseph [formerly Józef Boruslawski], styled Count Boruwlaski (1739–1837), travelling performer and memoirist, was born in November 1739 near Halicz, Galicia, Poland, the third son of a lower gentry family. The principal source for his life is his own memoirs, published in several editions between 1788 and 1820. When he was nine his father died, leaving a widow with five sons and one daughter. Three sons were very tall, but three children suffered from achondroplasia, an inherited condition in which the cartilage in the bones fails to grow. ...

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Buchinger, Matthias [Matthew] (1674–1739), artist, was born on 2 June 1674 at Ansbach, near Nuremberg; details of his parents are unknown. He was born without hands, feet, lower legs, or thighs and in his life never grew taller than 29 inches. Although such symptoms might today be diagnosed as phocomelia, his impairments were attributed at the time to a fright suffered by his mother during pregnancy. He was the youngest of nine children and, according to a biography published in the ...

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Matthias Buchinger (1674–1739) by unknown artist, late 18th cent. (after self-portrait) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Byrne [O'Brien], Charles (1761–1783), giant, was born in Ireland, the son of an Irish father and a Scottish mother. He had at least one brother; none of his family was of particularly noteworthy size. Charles Byrne, however, was recorded as measuring 8 feet...

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Coan, John (1727/8–1764), sideshow performer, was born at Tivetshall, Norfolk. Although he has been known as the Norfolk Dwarf, both accounts of his development and pictorial representations of him reveal that he was not a dwarf but a midget. Coan appeared to grow normally in his early years but by the time he was exhibited at the ...

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Patrick Cotter (1760/6161–1806) by John Kay, 1803 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Cotter, Patrick [performing name Patrick O'Brien] (1760/61–1806), giant, was born at Kinsale, co. Cork. He grew to be more than 8 feet tall (accounts vary from 8 feet 3½ inches to 8 feet 7 inches), and from his late teens was exhibited in ...

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G. F. R. Barker

revised by Anita McConnell

Dunstan, Jeffrey (1759?–1797), hawker and ‘mayor of Garrett’, was a foundling reared in the parish workhouse of St Dunstan-in-the-East, in the City of London. At the age of twelve he was apprenticed to a greengrocer, but he ran away to Birmingham, where he worked in the factories. The heavy labour probably added to his deformities, for as an adult he had knock knees, a large head, and grew to a height of only ...

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Jeffrey Dunstan (1759?–1797) by T. Wilkes, pubd 1794 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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See Hopkin, Lewis