The average American man is 5 feet, 9 inches (175.4 centimeters) in height, and the typical American woman comes in a few inches shorter than that, at 5 feet, 4 inches (162.6 centimeters). But, as everyone knows, there’s a wide range of heights out there, ranging from the very tallest to the very smallest. This begs the question: Who is the world’s smallest person?
The folks at Guinness World Records (GWR) are excellent at documenting extremes, and this is no exception. However, they categorize this under the heading of “shortest,” rather than “smallest.” And there’s more than one category for the “world’s shortest person.” In addition to the world’s shortest man (living) and world’s shortest woman (living), the same categories exist for non-mobile individuals.
“Some of the shortest people do not have the ability to walk or stand,” says Mark McKinley, head of Record Content Support at GWR in an email. “This means that, when measuring them, it takes place lying down measuring their length, rather than height.” He notes that this measurement difference is why separate categories are necessary. “As the measuring of someone lying versus standing upright would provide different measurements due to the pressure on the body, we could not compare these two.”
Currently, the shortest female living (non-mobile category) is Wildine Aumoithe of North Miami Beach, Florida, who is 28.3 inches (72 centimeters). The shortest non-mobile man is Junrey Balawing of the Philippines, at 23.5 inches (59.93 centimeters), GWR says.
But the overall Guinness title of “world’s shortest person (mobile)” belongs to Jyoti Amge, who measured just over 2 feet (24.7 inches or 62.8 centimeters to be exact) when she took over the record in December 2011. She also holds the title of “shortest woman living (mobile).”
Amge, who was born in Nagpur, India, in 1993, is shorter than the average 2-year-old child, per GWR, and weighs in at a scant 11 pounds (5 kilograms). She was born with a type of dwarfism called achondroplasia, which translated stands for “without cartilage formation.” The most common type of short-limbed dwarfism, achondroplasia occurs in somewhere between one in 15,000 to 40,000 infants.
Despite her short stature, Amge has lived a big life. As a child and teen, she attended school, where her only real accommodations were a smaller desk and chair. Her father said that Amge was made fun of before becoming famous. “She used to feel very dejected then,” he told GWR. However, her status as an international celebrity has helped her achieve “everything she ever wanted.”
Amge is a star in her own right, with nearly a million followers on Instagram and has appeared on many TV shows as herself. She is probably best known to the public for the role of Ma Petite on the popular “American Horror Story,” which also helped her land the GWR record of “shortest actress.” During the COVID-19 pandemic she used her celebrity to encourage safe practices like mask-wearing and social distancing. When she’s not appearing on TV, Amge lives with her family, helping out with the cooking and cleaning, and experimenting with fashion, jewelry and makeup, often posting on social media.
Fame comes with something of a price, however, as at least one person has misrepresented Amge. In 2017 an Indian American man circulated fake wedding images on the internet claiming that he’d married the model/actress. However, she didn’t know him and filed a complaint with local police regarding the matter.
As tiny as Amge is, she actually is not the smallest woman of all time. That distinction still belongs to Pauline Musters, of the Netherlands. Also known as Princess Pauline, her height maxed out at 21.5 inches (55 centimeters), and she weighed only 3 pounds, 5 ounces (1.39 kilograms). She died in New York in 1895 at the age of 19 due to pneumonia with meningitis, McKinley says.
The shortest man ever was Chandra Bahadur Dangi from Nepal, who measured 21.5 inches (54.6 centimeters) tall in 2012 at age 72. He died in 2015 while traveling the world in support of his relatively newfound fame. The current world’s shortest man is Edward Niño Hernandez, of Colombia, who measures 28.38 inches (72.1 centimeters) in height. His mother said he has not grown since the age of 2. He seems to lead a regular life, working as a dancer and occasionally acting.
GWR also has a number of other creative categories with “world’s shortest” in mind. For example, the shortest person ever to have flown in space is an astronaut named Nancy Currie. Although she’s no LeBron at only 5 feet tall (1.5 meters), she isn’t unusually petite. Then, there’s the world’s shortest firefighter, a Pennsylvania resident named Vince Brasco, who stands 4 feet, 2 inches (127 centimeters). Born with a type of dwarfism, his small stature is critical at getting into places where other firefighters can’t fit.