Patrick O'Brien, Irish giant

Patrick O'Brien, Irish giant

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Patrick Cotter O'Brien (c.1761-1806), Irishman of giant stature, being measured by a tailor during a visit to England. O'Brien was over 7 feet 7 inches (2.31 metres). Contemporary accounts had him over 8 feet high. His gigantism was the result of a pituitary gland tumour. Byrne's family lived in northeast Tyrone. His parents were not unusually tall. At 21 he left Ireland, and travelled to London. He found work at Cox's Museum as a living display. He lived next door in a custom apartment with large furniture. He soon became the toast of the town but took to drinking excessively and died in June 1783 at the age of twenty-two. It was said that Byrne paid fishermen to bury him at sea, but after being bribed by John Hunter the fishermen pulled the corpse back and sold it to the surgeon. His skeleton now resides in the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. This artwork by John Kay dates from 1803.

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