Caroline Crachami

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Caroline Crachami (possibly b. 1815— June 1824) is sometimes cited as being the smallest person in recorded history, but as she was nine years old or less at the time of her death, it is unlikely that she had finished growing. Said to have been born in Palermo, Italy, she was known as the "Sicilian Fairy" or "Sicilian Dwarf." She was the first person recognised to have primordial dwarfism,[1] and was only about 19 12 inches (50 cm) tall at the time of her death; it was claimed that at birth she had weighed only one pound (454 grams) and measured approximately 8 inches (20 cm) tall.[2]

Exhibition and death[edit]

Caroline Crachami first came to public notice in April 1824, when she was exhibited in London by a Dr Gilligan, who initially claimed to be her father. She was a great success, attracting many distinguished visitors, and was presented at Court. Observers noted that she appeared of normal intelligence for a child of her supposed years, had a good command of spoken English, and suffered from a bad cough.[3]

She died in June 1824, apparently of a respiratory ailment, probably tuberculosis. A week later her real father, Louis Emmanuel Crachami, a musician at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, arrived in London and began legal attempts to retrieve his daughter's body for burial. He claimed to have consulted Dr. Gilligan in Dublin about Caroline's health. Gilligan apparently prescribed a trip to a dryer climate, and offered to take Caroline to London if he could exhibit her to cover the costs of the trip. After her death he attempted to sell her body for anatomisation, then left London with the proceeds of the exhibition. Despite Crachami's efforts, Caroline's body was acquired by the anatomist John Hunter, who dissected it. To this day, her skeleton is on display in the Hunterian Museum along with that of Charles Byrne, the "Irish Giant".[3]

Doubts over her reported age[edit]

Studies of Caroline Crachami's skull in the 1950s put her dental age range at only 2 to 7 years old, a finding confirmed in 1998.[4] It was suggested that Caroline was in fact 3 years old at her death, rather than 9, although contemporary reports of her abilities and language suggest an older child, and make this a matter for debate.


  1. ^ "Where We Were: A Little Bit of History from". Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  2. ^ Bondeson, Jan (2004). The Pig-faced Lady of Manchester Square & Other Medical Marvels. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-2968-X. 
  3. ^ a b Bondeson, Op. cit.
  4. ^ Berkovitz, B K; Grigson, C; Dean M C (April 1998). "Caroline Crachami, the Sicilian dwarf (1815–1824): was she really nine years old at death?". American Journal of Medical Genetics 76 (4): 343–348. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1096-8628(19980401)76:4<343::AID-AJMG10>3.0.CO;2-O. PMID 9545099.