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Jeanne Calment

Jeanne Calment

Calment celebrating her 121st birthday in 1996
Born Jeanne Louise Calment
21 February 1875
Arles, France
Died 4 August 1997
(aged &10000000000000122000000122 years, &10000000000000164000000164 days)
Arles, France
Known for Longest confirmed lifespan since 17 October 1995
Oldest living person (14 February 1991 – 4 August 1997)
Spouse Fernand Calment (lived: 1868–1942,
married: 1896–1942)

Jeanne Louise Calment (French pronunciation: [ʒan lwiz kalmɑ̃]; 21 February 1875 – 4 August 1997)[1] was a French supercentenarian who had the longest confirmed human life span in history, living to the age of &10000000000000122000000122 years, &10000000000000164000000164 days.[2] She lived in Arles, France, for her entire life, and outlived both her daughter and grandson. She became especially well known from the age of 113, when the centenary of Vincent van Gogh's visit brought reporters to Arles. She entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1988, and on 17 October 1995 she became the oldest person ever, having surpassed the (now discounted) case of Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan. She became the last living documented person born in the 1870s when the Japanese supercentenarian Tane Ikai (born 1879) died on 12 July 1995, and was thence, from that date, more than five years older than any other living human being until her death over two years later; in total she outlived 329 undisputedly verified supercentenarians.

Her life span has been thoroughly documented by scientific study, with more records having been produced to verify her age than for any other case. She is the only person confirmed to have reached over 120 years of age.[3]



Family background

  Birth certificate of Jeanne Calment
  Calment at age 20 in 1895

Calment was born in Arles in 1875.[1] Her father, Nicolas Calment (January 28, 1831 – January 22, 1931), was a shipbuilder, and her mother, Marguerite Gilles (20 February 1838 – 18 September 1924), was from a family of millers. Some of her close family members also lived to an advanced age: her older brother, François, lived to the age of 97, her father to a week shy of 100, and her mother to 86.

According to Calment, she met Vincent van Gogh at the age of 13, when he came into her uncle's shop in 1888. She found him to be "Dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable".[4][5]

Marriage and children

In 1896, at the age of 21, she married her second cousin, Fernand Nicolas Calment (their paternal grandfathers were brothers; hence the same surname, and their paternal grandmothers were also sisters),[3] a wealthy store owner. His wealth made it possible for Calment never to have to work; instead she led a leisured lifestyle, pursuing hobbies such as tennis, cycling, swimming, rollerskating, piano and opera.[1] Her husband died in 1942 at the age of around 73 or 74 after he ate a dessert prepared with spoiled cherries.[6] Their only child, a daughter named Yvonne Marie Nicolle Calment (1898–1934), produced a grandson, Frédéric Billiot (1926–1963), born in 1926.[3] Calment outlived Yvonne, who died at age 35 in 1934 from pneumonia, after which Calment raised Frédéric herself.[7] Frédéric became a doctor, and she outlived him as well, since he died at age 36 in an automobile accident in 1963.[1]

Conveyance of apartment

In 1965, aged 90 years and with no heirs, Calment signed a deal to sell her former apartment to lawyer André-François Raffray, on a contingency contract. Raffray, then aged 47 years, agreed to pay her a monthly sum of 2,500 francs until she died. Raffray ended up paying Calment the equivalent of more than $180,000, which was more than double the apartment's value. After Raffray's death from cancer at the age of 77, in 1995, his widow continued the payments until Calment's death.[1] During all these years, Calment used to say to them that she "competed with Methuselah".[8]

  Jeanne Calment, aged 22 years in 1897


  Calment at age 40 in 1915

In 1985, Calment moved into a nursing home, having lived on her own until age 110.[1] Her international fame escalated in 1988, when the centenary of Vincent van Gogh's visit to Arles provided an occasion to meet reporters. She said at the time that she had met Van Gogh 100 years before, in 1888, as a thirteen-year-old girl in her uncle's fabric shop, where he wanted to buy some canvas, later describing him as "dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable", and "very ugly, ungracious, impolite, sick".[1][7] Calment recalled selling coloured pencils to Van Gogh, and seeing the Eiffel Tower being built.[9] At the age of 114, she appeared briefly in the 1990 film Vincent and Me as herself, making her the oldest person ever to appear in a motion picture.

A documentary film about her life, entitled Beyond 120 Years with Jeanne Calment, was released in 1995.[10] In 1996, Time's Mistress, a four-track CD of Calment speaking over a background of rap, was released.[11] On her 122nd birthday on 21 February 1997, it was announced that she would make no more public appearances, as her health had seriously deteriorated. She died on 4 August of that same year.[10]

Both before and after Calment's death, there have been several claims to have surpassed her age, but none of them have been proven, and Calment therefore continues to hold the record for the oldest verified person ever.

Record breaking

After her 1988 interview, at age 113, Calment was given the Guinness title "world's oldest living person". However, in 1989, the title was withdrawn and given to Carrie C. White of Florida, who was claimed to have been born in 1874, although this has been disputed by subsequent census research.[12] On White's death on 14 February 1991, Calment, then a week shy of 116, became the oldest recognized living person.[13] On 17 October 1995 Calment reached 120 years and 238 days to become the "oldest person ever" according to Guinness, surpassing Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan, whose own claim (120 years 237 days old at the time of his death on 21 February 1986, Calment's 111th birthday) has been discounted.[10] If the case of Carrie White is also discounted, Calment is the first person documented to reach 115 years of age.

She is also the only person to have indisputably lived for 120 years. The person who came closest to this age was Sarah Knauss of the United States, reaching 119 years, 97 days on her death on 30 December 1999. Accounting for leap years, Knauss lived 43560 days and Calment reached the age of 43561 days on 29 May 1994, not 30 May. Calment's age on the day of her death was 44724 days.

Furthermore (if the previously mentioned Carrie C. White is discounted) Calment also holds the record for being the oldest living person for the longest period of time, by far – with nearly nine years and seven months, counting from the death of Florence Knapp on 11 January 1988, to her own death on 4 August 1997.

Calment broke the record for longest confirmed lifespan (previously held by Anna Eliza Williams, who died at age 114 years 208 days, in 1987) by nearly eight years. Breaking a previous record for age by that amount was, in itself, a record. Before Calment, the only person who had surpassed a former longest confirmed lifespan with more than one year, was Delina Filkins who became the first 113-year-old in 1928. Filkins surpassed the by then longest confirmed lifespan with just over two years.

Following Calment's death on 4 August 1997 at 10:45 CET, then 116-year-old Marie-Louise Meilleur became the oldest recognized living person. Calment was the world's last documented person to live in the 1870s.[10]

Longevity records

  • On 20 June 1986 Eugénie Roux died; Calment, 111 years 119 days, became the Doyenne de France.
  • On 27 December 1987 Anna Eliza Williams died; Calment, 112 years 310 days, became the oldest person in Europe.
  • On 11 January 1988 Florence Knapp died; Calment, 112 years 324 days, became the world's oldest undisputed living person.
  • On 17 September 1989, Calment, 114 years 209 days, surpassed Anna Eliza Williams as the oldest undisputed person ever.
  • On 21 February 1990, Calment became the first undisputed person documented to reach age 115.
  • On 12 July 1995 Tane Ikai died; Calment became the last living link from the 1870s.
  • On 17 October 1995, Calment became the oldest verified person ever, having surpassed the (now discounted) case of Shigechiyo Izumi.
  • On 4 August 1997 Jeanne Calment died, aged 122 years 164 days, and the 116-year old Marie-Louise Meilleur became the oldest living person.

Health and lifestyle

Calment's remarkable health presaged her later record. At age 85, she took up fencing, and continued to ride her bicycle up until her 100th birthday. She was reportedly neither athletic, nor fanatical about her health.[9] Calment lived on her own until shortly before her 110th birthday, when it was decided that she needed to be moved to a nursing home after a cooking accident (she was having complications with sight) started a small fire in her house. However, Calment was still in good shape, and was able to walk until she fractured her femur during a fall at age 114 years and 11 months, which required surgery.[3][12]

After her operation, Calment needed to use a wheelchair. She weighed 45 kilograms (99 lb) in 1994. She smoked until the age of 117, only five years before her death.[1][14] Calment smoked from the age of 21 (1896), though according to an unspecified source, she smoked no more than two cigarettes per day.[15]

Calment ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food[4] and rubbed onto her skin, as well as a diet of port wine, and ate nearly one kilogram of chocolate every week.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Whitney, Craig R. (5 August 1997). "Jeanne Calment, World's Elder, Dies at 122". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01E7D7113DF936A3575BC0A961958260. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  2. ^ The Guinness Book of Records, 1999 edition, p.102, ISBN 0-85112-070-9.
  3. ^ a b c d "Validation of Exceptional Longevity — Jeanne Calment: Validation of the Duration of Her Life". Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. http://www.demogr.mpg.de/books/odense/6/09.htm. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  4. ^ a b "World's oldest person dead". McCook Daily Gazette (Paris: Google Search): p. 1. Aug 4, 1997. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=VqEgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7GgFAAAAIBAJ&pg=6026%2C3313956. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  5. ^ http://www.wilsonsalmanac/book/fed21.html[dead link]
  6. ^ "MILESTONES". Time. 18 August 1997. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,986874,00.html. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "World's oldest person dies at 122". CNN. 4 August 1997. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9708/04/obit.oldest/. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  8. ^ "From an interview made in 1989". Boutique.ina.fr. 1989-01-21. http://boutique.ina.fr/video/CAB89003100/jeanne-calment-114-ans-a-rencontre-van-gogh.fr.html. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  9. ^ a b "World's oldest person marks 120 beautiful, happy years". News.google.com. 21 February 1995. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=CL4RAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jOwDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1584,3192209. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Tribute to Jeanne Calment, memorial — Lasting tribute". Lasting Tribute. http://www.lastingtribute.co.uk/tribute/calment/2603938. Retrieved 5 August 2008. 
  11. ^ a b "Believed to be world's oldest, woman in France dies at 122". Houston Chronicle. 4 August 1997. http://supercentenarian.com/oldest/jeanne-calment.html. Retrieved 5 August 2008. 
  12. ^ a b Addy, Ronda (25 May 2008). "Life expectancy". Sun Journal. http://www.sunjournal.com/index.php?t=8&storyid=267178&subpub=118. Retrieved 6 August 2008. 
  13. ^ "The Oldest Human Beings". Recordholders.org. http://www.recordholders.org/en/list/oldest.html#3. Retrieved 6 August 2008. 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ An Exceptional Case of Human Longevity, Jeanne Calment. New Orleans: Gerontological Society of America. 23 November 1993. http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/courses/hde19/lecture3.html. 

Further reading

  • Allard, Michel; Lebre, Victor; Robine, Jean-Marie; Calment, Jeanne (1998). Jeanne Calment: From Van Gogh's Time to Ours : 122 Extraordinary Years. New York: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-3251-3. 
  • Robine, Jean-Marie; Allard, Michel (1999). Jeune, Bernard; Vaupel, James W. (eds). ed. Jeanne Calment: Validation of the Duration of Her Life. Validation of Exceptional Longevity. Odense University Press. ISBN 87-7838-466-4. 

External links

Preceded by
Anna Eliza Williams
Oldest undisputedly recorded person ever
17 September 1989 – present
Preceded by
Shigechiyo Izumi
Oldest recorded person ever
17 October 1995 – present
Preceded by
Carrie C. White
Oldest recognized living person
14 February 1991 – 4 August 1997
Succeeded by
Marie-Louise Meilleur
Preceded by
Anna Eliza Williams
Oldest person in Europe
27 December 1987 – 4 August 1997
Succeeded by
Anitica Butariu
Preceded by
Eugenie Roux
Doyenne de France
20 June 1986 – 4 August 1997
Succeeded by
Marie-Helene Chanteperdrix



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