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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

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Jeffery Hudson (1619–1682) by Daniel Mytens, c. 1630 The Royal Collection © 2004 HM Queen Elizabeth II

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Hudson, Jeffery (1619–1682), dwarf, was born at Oakham, Rutland, the son of John Hudson, a butcher employed by the duke of Buckingham. Although both parents were of normal stature, Jeffery developed as a perfectly proportioned dwarf, who was barely 18 inches in height by about the age of eight, when his father presented him to the ...

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Kempster, Frederick John [Fred] (1889–1918), giant, was born at 5 East Block, Chapel Side, Paddington, London, on 13 April 1889, the youngest in the family of two sons and three daughters of Joseph Kempster, a milk carrier, and his wife, Jane, née Price...

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Daniel Lambert (1770–1809) by Benjamin Marshall, exh. RA 1807 Leicestershire Museums and Art Galleries / Bridgeman Art Library

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Lambert, Daniel (1770–1809), the most corpulent man of his time in England, was the elder of two sons of a Daniel Lambert who had been huntsman to the earl of Stamford. He was born in Blue Boar Lane, Leicester, on 13 March 1770 and was apprenticed to ...

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Magrath, Cornelius (1737–1760), giant, was born on 10 January 1737, near Silvermines, co. Tipperary. This date is recorded on the only known image of Magrath, an etching made in 1756 by a German engraver named Maag. Nothing is known of Macgrath's parents except that they were both of normal stature and that it is likely he was orphaned by the age of fifteen or sixteen. He is known to have suffered from acromegaly, a disease that causes abnormal growth in the extremities as well as an enlarged jaw. The beginnings of ...

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Joseph Carey Merrick [the Elephant Man] (1862–1890) by unknown photographer, c. 1889 Royal London Hospital Archives and Museum

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Merrick, Joseph Carey [called the Elephant Man] (1862–1890), freak show novelty and medical curiosity, was born at 50 Lee Street, Leicester, on 5 August 1862, the elder son (there was also a daughter) of Joseph Rockley Merrick (b. 1835/6), a warehouseman and machine operator in a cotton factory, and ...

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Payne, Antony [Anthony] [called the Cornish Giant] (d. 1691?), giant, was reputedly 7 feet 2 inches tall at the age of twenty-one. No authentic records of his parentage, birth date, baptism, or marriage survive, but there were certainly Paynes living during the seventeenth century in ...

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Thomas Seccombe

revised by David Turner

Peter the Wild Boy (c. 1712–1785), curiosity, was found in 1725 in the woods near Hamelin, about 25 miles from Hanover. In the words of contemporary pamphleteers, he was observed 'walking on his hands and feet, climbing trees like a squirrel, and feeding on grass and moss'. In November 1725 he was taken to the house of correction at ...