From Dwarf To Giant — The Tragic Story Of Adam Rainer

Published March 27, 2018
Updated October 9, 2021

Adam Rainer is the only man in history who has been classified as both a dwarf and a giant.

It’s unclear if Adam Rainer, whose height was less than 5 feet when he was 21 years, ever wished that he’d grow taller. But if he did, his story would be the anecdotal epitome of the expression “be careful what you wish for.”

Not much is known about the life Adam Rainer led in regards to personal details, as it was his curious and unprecedented medical condition that dominated what’s known about it.

Born in Graz, Austria in 1899, Rainer was born to parents who were both of average height.

Adam Rainer

YouTubeAdam Rainer

When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the army. Since he was just 4 feet 6 inches tall, doctors administered a series of tests. They ultimately classified him as a dwarf and it was determined that he was too small and too weak to be an effective soldier. The only strange thing was that his hands and feet were exceptionally big for his small size.

A year later, he grew another two inches, which was probably promising.

In 1920, Rainer was still small and records show he was also very thin. At 21 years old, the typical age a person stops growing, it was assumed that Rainer’s stature was set for the rest of his life.

But then something happened. Rainer didn’t just grow another two inches; he started growing many more inches and at an alarmingly accelerated rate without any sign of slowing down.

Adam Rainer As A Dwarf

YouTubeAdam Rainer next to an average sized man.

One decade later, Adam Rainer had grown more than two feet. His height: seven feet and one inch tall.

Doctors were baffled. Two doctors, Dr. Mandl and Dr. Windholz, started examining Rainer in 1930. They began to suspect that Rainer may have developed a specific kind of tumor that caused an extreme case of acromegaly, which is when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone.

As seen in individuals like Andre the Giant, symptoms of acromegaly include enlarged hands and feet, which Rainer definitely had. In addition to that, his face had also elongated due to a protruding forehead and jaw. His lips had become thicker and teeth had become widely spaced.

He also experienced issues with his spine, as it had increasingly curved sideways during his massive growth spurt. In 1931, they discovered that their hypothesis was correct.

The operation to remove the tumor was very risky with a small chance of success, considering the tumor had been growing for more than ten years. Yet the doctors still managed to remove the tumor.

Several months after the surgery, Rainer went back for a checkup with the doctors. They were glad to see that his height had remained the same. However, his spinal curvature was even worse. This indicated that although it was occuring at a much slower rate, he was in fact still growing.

Adam Rainer’s health problems only got worse. He began to lose his hearing and went blind in one eye. All the while, the curve in his spine had become so severe he had to stay in bed.

Rainer eventually died when he was 51 years old. At 7 feet 8 inches tall, Adam Rainer was the only man in history classified as both a dwarf and a giant in the same lifetime.

If you found this story about Adam Rainer interesting, you may also want to check out 21 totally not photoshopped pictures of Andre the Giant. Then read the tale of the Eddie Gaedel, the smallest player in Major League history.

Kara Goldfarb
Kara Goldfarb is a writer living in New York City.