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Jeanne Calment

Jeanne Calment
Calment celebrating her 121st birthday in 1996
Born Jeanne Louise Calment
(1875-02-21)21 February 1875
Arles, France
Died 4 August 1997(1997-08-04)
(aged 122 years, 164 days)
Arles, France
Cause of death Natural causes[1]
Nationality French
Known for

•Longest confirmed lifespan since 11 May 1990 •Only verified person to reach the age of 120

•First verified person to reach the ages of 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, and 122
Spouse(s) Fernand Calment (lived: 1868–1942; married: 1896–1942)

Jeanne Louise Calment (French pronunciation: ​; 21 February 1875 – 4 August 1997)[2] was a French supercentenarian who has the longest confirmed human lifespan on record, living to the age of 122 years, 164 days.[3] She lived in Arles, France, for her entire life, outliving both her daughter and grandson by several decades. Calment became especially well known from the age of 113, when the centenary of Vincent van Gogh's visit brought reporters to Arles. Her lifespan has been thoroughly documented by scientific study.


  • Early life 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Recognition 3
  • Record breaking 4
  • Health and lifestyle 5
  • Verification 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Birth certificate of Jeanne Calment
Calment at age 20 in 1895

Calment was born in Arles on 21 February 1875.[2] Her father, Nicolas Calment (28 January 1838 – 22 January 1931), was a shipbuilder, and her mother, Marguerite Gilles (20 February 1838 – 18 September 1924), was from a family of millers. She had an older brother, François, (25 April 1865 – 1 December 1962). Some of her close family members also lived an above-average lifespan, although none lived anywhere near as long as Jeanne: her older brother François lived to the age of 97, her father to six days shy of 93, 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 to buy canvas in 1888. She found him to be "Dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable."[4]

Personal life

In 1896, at the age of 21, she married her double second cousin, Fernand Nicolas Calment, a wealthy store owner. Their paternal grandfathers were brothers, hence the same surname, and their paternal grandmothers were also sisters.[5] 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.[2] Fernand died in 1942 at the age of 73 after suffering from a bout of food poisoning.[6]

Their only child, a daughter named Yvonne Marie Nicolle Calment (20 January 1898 – 19 January 1934), produced a grandson, Frédéric Billiot, on 23 December 1926.[5] Yvonne died one day before her 36th birthday from pneumonia, after which Calment raised Frédéric herself.[7] Frédéric became a doctor, but died at age 36 in an automobile accident on 13 August 1963.[5][2]

Calment at age 22 in 1897

In 1965, at age 90 and with no heirs, Calment signed a deal to sell her 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.[2] During all these years, Calment used to say to them that she "competed with Methuselah".[8]


Calment at age 40 in 1915

In 1985, Calment moved into a nursing home, having lived on her own until age 110.[2] 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 father'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".[2][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, becoming the oldest actress ever to appear in a motion picture.[10]

A documentary film about her life, entitled Beyond 120 Years with Jeanne Calment, was released in 1995.[11] In 1996, Time's Mistress, a four-track CD of Calment speaking over a background of rap, was released.[12] 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. Jean-Marie Robine, the French demographer and gerontologist, said that this "allowed her to die, as the attention had kept her alive."[13] She died on 4 August of that same year.[11]

Both before and after Calment's death, there have been several claims to have surpassed her age (see Unverified longevity claims) but none of them has 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 claimed to have been born in 1874, although this has been discounted by subsequent census research.[14] On White's death on 14 February 1991, Calment, then a week shy of 116, became the oldest recognized living person.

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 claim (120 years 237 days old at the time of his death on 21 February 1986, Calment's 111th birthday) has since been discounted.[11] Calment was believed to have been the first person verified to have reached 115 years of age, although Augusta Holtz has since been verified to have reached this age before her.

Health and lifestyle

Calment's remarkable health presaged her later record. At age 85 (1960), 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 starting a small fire in her house, caused by a cooking accident, which has been attributed to complications with sight. However, Calment was still in good shape, and continued to walk until she fractured her femur during a fall at age 114 years 11 months (January 1990), which required surgery.[5][14]

Calment smoked cigarettes from the age of 21 (1896) to 117 (1992),[2][15] though according to an unspecified source, she smoked no more than two cigarettes per day towards the end of her life.[16] After her operation, Calment needed to use a wheelchair. In 1994, age 119, she weighed 45 kilograms (99 lb).

Calment ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to a diet rich in olive oil[4] (which she also rubbed onto her skin), as well as a diet of port wine, and ate nearly one kilogram (2.2 lb) of chocolate every week. She also credited her calmness, saying, "That's why they call me Calment."[17] Calment reportedly remained mentally intact until her very end.[4]

On 4 August 1997, around 10 AM Central European Time [18] Calment died, aged 122. After her death, 116-year-old Marie-Louise Meilleur became the oldest recognized living person.

"I’ve never had but one wrinkle, and I’m sitting on it."

Jeanne Calment[19]


Exceeding any other longevity case reported, Calment establishes the record as the most-verifiable supercentenarian ever recorded. Beginning with the 1876 census (Calment is listed as a one-year-old), she was indexed within fourteen census documents until 1975 (conducted sometime after she celebrated her 100th birthday). She was still managing independently at the time.

See also


  1. ^ Jeanne Calment – NNDB Retrieved 28 November 2012
  2. ^ 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. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  3. ^ The Guinness Book of Records, 1999 edition, p. 102, ISBN 0-85112-070-9.
  4. ^ a b c "World's oldest person dead". McCook Daily Gazette (Paris). 4 August 1997. p. 1. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Validation of Exceptional Longevity – Jeanne Calment: Validation of the Duration of Her Life".  
  6. ^ "Milestones". Time. 18 August 1997. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "World's oldest person dies at 122". CNN. 4 August 1997. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  8. ^ "From an interview made in 1989". 21 January 1989. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "World's oldest person marks 120 beautiful, happy years". 21 February 1995. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  10. ^ "Oldest Person".  
  11. ^ a b c "Tribute to Jeanne Calment, memorial – Lasting tribute". Lasting Tribute. Archived from the original on 25 May 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2008. 
  12. ^ "Believed to be world's oldest, woman in France dies at 122".  
  13. ^ Deller, Deborah. "Jeanne Calment : Obituary". ThisIsAnnouncements. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Addy, Ronda (25 May 2008). "Life expectancy".  
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ "An Exceptional Case of Human Longevity, Jeanne Calment". New Orleans: Gerontological Society of America. 23 November 1993. 
  17. ^ "Alcohol, cigarettes, chocolates and sweets - The secrets of a long life?". Mail Online. 
  18. ^ France 2, August 4 1997
  19. ^ Whitney, Craig R. (5 August 1997). "Jeanne Calment, World's Elder, Dies at 122".  

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.  
  • 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.  

External links

Preceded by
Florence Knapp
Oldest recognized living person
11 January 1988 – 4 August 1997
Succeeded by
Marie-Louise Meilleur
Preceded by
Augusta Holtz
Oldest verified person ever
11 May 1990 – present
Preceded by
Anna Eliza Williams
Oldest person in Europe
27 December 1987 – 4 August 1997
Succeeded by
Lucy Jane Askew
Preceded by
Eugénie Roux
Oldest person in France
20 June 1986 – 4 August 1997
Succeeded by
Marie-Hélène Chanteperdrix
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