Jon Minnoch has held the world record for the heaviest human ever to live since 1978 when he died at the age of 42, weighing in at 1,400 lbs. (635 kg). But before him, Robert Earl Hughes held the record at 1,071 lbs. (486 kg).

Robert Earl Hughes was born in 1926 and grew up in Fishhook, Illinois. He weighed 9 lbs. (4 kg) when he was born.

When he was a few months old, he came down with whooping cough. Although he recovered, doctors theorize this illness damaged either his thyroid or his pituitary gland. His mother gave birth to two more boys. Robert’s brothers grew normally, but Robert grew extraordinarily fast.

By the time Robert entered the first grade at age seven, he stood a few inches taller than his classmates, but weighed 225 lbs, (102 kg) about the same as his teacher, a grown man.

At ten, he weighed 378 lbs. (171 kg). A doctor predicted he’d be dead by the age of 15 due to the stress on his heart.

Still, Robert was phenomenally intelligent, reading everything he could get his hands on, and never forgetting a thing.

At 14, Robert weighed nearly 550 lbs. (249 kg)    and could not move well. He quit school because he could no longer walk there, and his family did not own a vehicle to drive him.

By 16 he weighed 600 lbs. (272 kg)    and stood 5 feet, 9 inches (175 cm). He was unable to perform simple tasks. Yet, all who knew him said he ate normal amounts of food and was never a glutton.

A local news reporter visited with Robert and described him as a wonderful conversationalist, full of humor, with a pleasant personality.

In 1946 when he was 20, he and his family attended the local Fall Festival, where he pushed the scale past 700 lbs. (317 kg). He attracted a crush of observers, and sold 160 photos of himself. By day’s end, he had grossed $240. In 1947, Robert decided he wanted to see the world.

He began with local fairs and festivals, travelling in a horse-drawn wagon, and earning up to $100 for an appearance. Throngs paid 25¢ to see him, and another 25¢ for a photo. Newspapers covered his appearances. Newsreels featured him. One fan built a reinforced chair for him which he used for the rest of his life. His brother’s wife sewed his enormous clothing. By the age of 23, he tipped the scales at 800 lbs. (363 kg) and a single shirt required a length of fabric 9 feet wide (2.7 m) and 18 feet (5.5 m) long.

For seven years, Robert travelled the country, transported in the back of a pick-up truck.

In 1954, at the age of 28 and weighing 946 lbs. (429 kg), Robert signed with a carnival and became a sideshow. He bought a carnival trailer that had once belonged to the travelling Siamese twins, which allowed him to perform at one end and live in the other end. By now he could only walk 20 feet without resting, but he was earning more than ever before.

While on tour in Indiana in 1958, he complained of a rash and fatigue. Doctors connected three blood pressure cuffs to fit his arm. A doctor diagnosed measles. Within hours, he died. His body was shipped home and he was buried in Fishhook, next to his parents, in a specially made casket the size of a piano case. He was 32 years old, and weighed two pounds lighter than his heaviest weight ever: 1,071 lbs. (486 kg).