WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- To date, Jeanne Calment, age 122 years and 164 days is the oldest person in the world. However, experts claimed that she died in 1934.
- Her identity was believed to have been taken by her daughter to avoid taxes.
- Various disparities based on Calment’s photos and papers were revealed by Russian scientists including eye color and shape of chin.
The world’s oldest person ever to have been listed at the Guinness World Records was Jeanne Calment at the age of 122 years and 164 days. However, claims from Russian experts said that Jeanne actually died in 1934, and that her daughter assumed her identity to avoid inheritance taxes.
Reportedly, Calment was born on February 21, 1875 in Arles, South of France. She died on August 4, 1997, which means she lived longer than her daughter and grandson. She described Vincent Van Gogh whom she met at age 12 or 13 as “very ugly, ungracious, impolite and sick,” and claimed to have witnessed the building of the Eiffel Tower.
While her longevity has been well established, according to a pre-print study on Research Gate, ”multiple contradictions” were found by mathematician Nikolay Zak and gerontologist Valery Novoselov in interviews, photos and other documents about Jeanne.
First, inconsistencies between her eye color, and chin and forehead shape from her 1930s passport picture in the 30s and photos of her taken in later life were noted. After moving into a nursing home, family archives and photographs were destroyed which magnified the researchers’ suspicions that “Jeanne had something to hide.”
Additionally, during interviews, she often confused her husband with her father. When questioned if she knew Frederic Mistral, the famous French writer, she replied saying, “Yes, he was a friend of my father…um, a friend of my husband.”
Other stronger scientific evidence is revealed to back up the speculations. After going through a series of cognitive tests at the age of 118, Calment’s performance was noted as “comparable to that of persons with the same level of education in their eighties and nineties.” This they believe is suspiciously nearer to the age her daughter would be.
Novoselov, gerontology department head of the Moscow Society of Naturalists told AFP: “I always had doubts about her age. The state of her muscle system was different from that of her contemporaries. She had no signs of dementia.”
Lastly, the age gap between her and the next oldest person is relatively too large that despite advances in medical care, Jeanne is believed by scientists to hold the record for a long, long time.
Regardless, not everyone is convinced by these assertions. “This is completely wobbly and not based on anything,” said Jean-Marie Robine, research director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research.
Speaking to Le Parisien, he added that they never found anything that gave them the slightest hint of her age. “We had access to information that only she could know. Either she did not remember, or she just answered.”