What Happened To Jon Brower Minnoch, The World's Heaviest Human?

It must have looked like a scene from a fairy tale. In March 1978, a squad of burly firemen gathered outside the home of Jon Brower Minnoch, a 37-year-old Seattle man. They were on a mission, according to Guinness World Records: move Mr. Minnoch to University Hospital. This was no ordinary EMS visit. Minnoch weighed 635 kilos, or 1,400 pounds. That's the combined weight of three or four bottlenose dolphins (via WhaleFacts). All 12 men were necessary.

No stretcher would ever hold 1,400 pounds, so the firemen improvised one — it's not clear how — and managed to carry Minnoch to a ferryboat, which allowed them to avoid finding a big enough car. Two beds in the ward had to be tied together to allow him to lay down comfortably. Thirteen people were required to roll him on his back. 

Perhaps it looked like Gulliver carried around by the Lilliputians, but Minnoch's case was serious. He was suffering from severe cardiac and respiratory problems from his huge weight, and would remain in the hospital for two years, kept on a strict diet and watched anxiously by doctors.

The world's heaviest man

According to Guinness World Records, who certified him shortly after his journey by boat to the hospital, Minnoch was born in 1941. His struggle with obesity began in childhood and never abated. At age 21 he weighed 392 pounds. Even at his height — he was over six feet tall — this weight made his day-to-day life difficult. Worse, the rate of his weight gain seemed to increase. At 24 he weighed 700 pounds. At 37 he peaked, but only through medical intervention; it's impossible to know, and sad to imagine, what might have happened otherwise.

The real question is why Minnoch kept growing. The Seattle endocrinologist who examined him diagnosed an unusual, generalized edema, or an increasing in extracellular fluid, according to the South Coast Herald. This condition, sometimes called anasarca, typically causes swelling and water retention (via Healthline). Guinness World Records notes that hundreds of pounds of Minnoch's weight was from fluid, which his body had retained beyond use.


Minnoch may have been — and at this point, remains — the world's heaviest-ever human being, but he was no freak. He was a normal man in most ways. The South Coast Herald notes that he had recently married before his stay at University Hospital, and would have two children. (Curiously, his wife was quite petite: only 110 pounds.) Still, his diet was the most important factor for controlling his weight, and so for his two years in the hospital ward he ate no more than 1,200 calories per day. 

At first it seemed to work. At discharge, Minnoch weighed 476 pounds — still morbidly obese, but almost two-thirds less than his original weight (per Guinness World Records). Sadly, he could not manage to keep it off. He was readmitted in 1981, having regained almost 200 pounds in the three-year interval. The doctors declared his edema incurable. Minnoch would die in 1983 of complications from his condition, at the age of just 42.