The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, January 25, 2008

Superhuman: Eleazar, giant of the Jews.

I am intrigued by the extremes of Mankind. The limits of the human and what rare humans are capable of, strike me as inherently interesting. Sometimes, the possibilities within the human gene pool are quite staggering. One such possibility - in fact, actuality, for once he lived - was Eleazar (or Elazar, as it is sometimes written), a giant of the Jews.

Before I go on, I would like it made clear that Eleazar is an historical figure. He is not a myth or a legend. He was written of by Josephus, the historian (who wrote specifically of his height) and was in a social position in the latter part of his life, in which there could be no hiding his true nature: too many people would have known who he was.

Now, the Guiness Book of World Records has Robert Pershing Wadlow as the tallest man on "record" at 8' 11 inches or 2 metres 72 centimetres. The question is, whose records? History has many taller examples recorded in one form or another. Some of those historical records look pretty solid. During his lifetime, Robert Pershing Wadlow was hailed as the "tallest man in medical history" - and perhaps that is true. He was probably the tallest man to encounter relatively modern medicine and be recorded, for posterity, by doctors. Yet, there are other types of record - such as historical records.

In the "Antiquities of the Jews", by Josephus, is the story of Eleazar, High Priest. Josephus was a Jew and son of a priest who became a noted historian and Roman Citizen. He went by various names: Yosef Ben Matityahu, as a Jew, Titus Flavius Josephus as a Roman, or simply Josephus, as an historian. His works recorded issues of importance in Jewish history and have given great insight to the period, particularly the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (which he, of course, survived to write about).

So, who does Josephus tell us Eleazar was? Well, he was the son of Aaron, who was brother of Moses (yes, that Moses). Aaron was a Levite and High Priest. Eleazar, rose through the ranks of the religion and, in time, he too was appointed High Priest (the story has it that Moses himself appointed him High Priest by taking the holy vestments off of Aaron and passing them to Eleazar. My question is, then, how tall was Aaron, that his vestments should fit Eleazar?)

So, being High Priest, it is clear that Eleazar would have been well known. His height would have been known to all of the Jews of his time. I would like you now to guess how tall he was stated to have been.

Guess again. He was reputed to have been 10 ft 6 inches tall.

That is a full nineteen inches taller than Robert Pershing Wadlow "tallest man on record".

Eleazar fathered a son, Phinehas, by his wife (a daughter of Putiel) and he, in turn, features in many tales that appear in the historical records. So, this figure of Eleazar has many links to documented lives.

It is said that he was buried at Gibeah, on lands given to his son, Phinehas, in the hill country of Ephraim.

To this day, this true giant is commemorated by the Eastern Orthodox Church, annually, on September 2nd. He is also remembered by the Armenian Apostolic Church, who hold him to be a Holy Forefather in their Calendar of Saints. They celebrate him on July 30.

I have been thinking about his height. At 10 foot 6 inches he is about twice the height of a Singaporean woman. He is a full four and a half feet above the height of what modern people call a tall man. How must life have been for such a giant man, when even tall people came up to the height of his navel?

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and six months, and Tiarnan, twenty-three months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:00 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Robert Wadlow have a pituitary tumor? I'm not sure I would consider that part of the possibilities within the human gene pool since it is not a genetic condition, as far as I know...

10:06 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Robert Wadlow did have a pituitary tumour. However, many "giants" - in fact all others I know of - do not have such tumours. So great height is not something without the human genome: it is part of it. The other factor to consider, of course, with regards to Robert Wadlow is was he genetically predisposed to a pituitary tumour, just as in the same way many women are predisposed to breast cancer? If so, in that sense it would be something genetically determined.

It is very unlikely that Robert Wadlow is the tallest human in history. He may have been the tallest in "medical history" - but not the tallest in history. There are many historical accounts of much taller people than him. The fact is he is the tallest person known in the last 100 years. That is a short time compared to the history of Man. It would not be likely at all that the tallest man should have lived so recently, given the hundreds of thousands of years of human history. He was tall. Much of his height was due to a tumour. But there are many other tall people - some taller - whose heights were not due to tumours.

Such tall people are rare in our time. This may not always have been the case. Apparently, for instance, cro-magnon man was taller than we are now - very much taller (from what I can gather). They were truly "strapping hunters".

Eleazar, however, is the tallest human in a conventional historical record.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Just Jen said...

there are giants in biblical times but i think Eleazar was the tallest?
His poor wife! :D Sorry but I can't help but think what that would have been like to be married to such a man. I know he wasn't but still, the house, the furniture, the food consumption and he lived beyond what 'science' says a man that size should live. (mind you in my mind the atmosphere and health of people was quite different in those days) Still...something to ponder...

11:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Eleazar is a biblical figure -but he is also mentioned in extra-biblical historical documents. We don't have to rely on the bible alone for an account of him.

I do not know whether Eleazar was the tallest of the giants referred to. I know that there were others. King Og of Bashan, was stated to be 9 foot tall. Goliath himself was said to be 9 foot 9 inches tall. These are truly big men.

In my research into this issue, I came across a photo of an ancient tomb that had held a 10 foot tall human skeleton. I wish I had kept the link. However, that is physical evidence of such people.

You are right that Eleazar enjoyed a good life span for his time. He was High Priest, alone, for over twenty years - and that appointment did not come until a long rise in respect, privilege and responsibilities over time. He was not a youngster, by our standards when he died.

This would seem to indicate that he wasn't ill in any way - unusual, yes, ill, no.

There certainly seem to be some interesting historical characters around if one takes the trouble to look for them.

As for his wife: they had least one whilst no doubt difficult, the basic requirements were fulfilled!

Best wishes to you Jen.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

since you write about a lot of stuff thats historical and scientific i have a question for you i am tyring to find out if it is possible for a human to become a super human by using the emotion anger ik it causes an adrenaline rush and that some people think give you superhuman strength but doesnt make you superhuman but what my question is is it possible to go beyond an adrenaline rush harnessing your emotions to make you more powerful? im also trying to fing historical evidence or legends and myths of a superhuman and i cant find any can you help me?

12:59 PM  

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