Nobody knows what was wrong with Daniel Lambert who was born on this day, March 13 1770. But he went from being a slim, athletic, sports-loving guy to a very very very big man in his thirties, so big that he entered record books as the heaviest person ever to have lived.
Daniel was born in Leicester, England, to a family passionate about hunting, gamekeeping and field sports. He joined eagerly in these hobbies and excelled at them. Moreover, he was also an excellent swimmer and taught children to swim across the river that runs through the city.
According to a not verified story, one day his dog slipped loose and bit a dancing bear performing in one of the city’s streets. The keeper removed the bear’s muzzle so that it could attack the dog, but Daniel stepped forward and punched the bear’s head, sending it sprawling to the ground and allowing the dog to escape. So…in perfect shape!
It all seems to start going wrong in 1791 when, aged 21, Daniel took over from his father as Keeper of the local Bridewell prison, better known as House of Correction. Ten years later, his weight had ballooned to 250 kg, and rising.
Daniel, a genial and much-liked person, and he was as mystified as doctors by his condition. He did not drink alcohol and he ate much the same as anyone else. But he continued to fatten.
By 1805 35-year-old Daniel weighed 320 kg and became unemployable when, in that year, the Bridewell prison closed, leaving him without a job.
At first he became a recluse but faced with the need to earn money he decided in 1806 that he had no choice but to make an exhibition of himself, and so moved to London where he charged visitors to visit his home and gaze at his enormous bulk.
Despite his physical condion, Daniel remained cheerful, engaging his visitors in amiable conversation and fascinating many of them with his extensive knowledge of hunting, fishing, shooting and horse racing.
It became a trend in London society to visit his house at Piccadilly, where Daniel soon drew about 400 paying visitors every day. By late 1806 he was a wealthy man and returned to Leicester. But he continued to exhibit himself, making tours that took in a number of English towns and cities.
It was while on tour in 1808 and staying at an inn that he was suddenly taken ill and died at the age of 39. His body could be removed from the inn only by taking down a wall and, a few days earlier, he had been weighed and tipped the scales at 335 kg.
His coffin measured 193 cm long, 132 cm wide and 71 cm deep. It was built on wheels and a sloping approach was created to his specially dug grave in the local churchyard. And, even so, it took 20 men and about half an hour to ease him into his final resting place.
His friends paid for a large gravestone, inscribed:
In Remembrance of that Prodigy in Nature.
a Native of Leicester:
who was possessed of an exalted and convivial Mind
and in personal Greatness had no Competitor
He measured three Feet one Inch round the Leg
nine Feet four Inches round the Body
Fifty two Stone eleven Pounds!
He departed this Life on the 21st of June 1809
Aged 39 years
As a Testimony of Respect this Stone is erected by his Friends in Leicester
There was no post-mortem examination and nobody knows what killed Daniel, but he has not been forgotten. Several public houses have been named after him and museums continue to display his clothes and other personal items. In the town of Stamford where he died, the local football team is nicknamed “The Daniels” after him.
In 2009, on the 200th anniversary of his death, Leicester celebrated Daniel Lambert Day, and the local newspaper described him as “one of the city’s most cherished icons”.
Images from web