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Jeanne Calment

Photo of Jeanne Calment

Jeanne Louise Calment (February 21 1875 - August 4 1997) had the longest confirmed lifespan (122 years 164 days) for any human being in history. Her lifespan has been thoroughly documented by scientific study. In fact, more records have been produced to verify her age than for any other case (more information is available in the book "122 Extraordinary Years: From Van Gogh's Time to Ours").

She married her second cousin Fernand Calment in 1896, and survived her only child (Yvonne, who died in 1934) and only grandchild (who died in 1963 in a motorcycle accident). In 1965, with no living heirs, Jeanne Calment signed a deal, common in France, to sell her condominium apartment "en viager" to lawyer François Raffray, then 47. Americans would call this a "reverse mortgage". Raffray agreed to pay a monthly sum until she passed away. She was then 90, and the value of the apartment was equal to ten years of payments. Unfortunately for Raffray, not only did she survive more than thirty years, but he died first, in December, 1995 at the age of 77. His wife had to continue the payments.

In 1985, Jeanne Calment moved into a nursing home, after living on her own until age 110. However, she did not gain international fame until 1988, when the centenary of Van Gogh's visit to Arles provided an occasion to meet reporters. She said that in her younger years, she met Vincent van Gogh, later describing him as "dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable." Soon after, Jeanne Calment was given the Guinness "world's oldest person" title at age 113 (first mentioned in Guinness World Records 1989, new claims at the end). In 1989 the title was taken back and given to Carrie White (1874 or 1888 to Feb 14 1991). Subsequent census research suggests that Guinness may have been right the first time. No matter, Calment was to regain her title officially on Feb 14 1991, a week shy of 116. By late 1991 Calment was recognized as the oldest female supercentenarian on record--a record she would extend for six more years. On Oct 17 1995 Jeanne Calment reached 120 years 238 days to become the Guinness "oldest person ever," surpassing Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan (whose claim to 120 years 237 days is subject to some doubt).

At the age of 114, she appeared briefly in the film Vincent and Me as herself. A French language documentary film about her life, entitled Beyond 120 Years with Jeanne Calment, was released in 1995. In 1996, the nursing home where she lived released a CD Time's Mistress . It featured her reminiscing, set to rap and other tunes.

Following her death, Marie-Louise Meilleur of Canada became the oldest recognized person in the world.


  • "I've been forgotten by God"
  • "I took pleasure when I could. I acted clearly and morally and without regret. I'm very lucky"
  • "I've only got one wrinkle, and I'm sitting on it."


  • Jean-Marie Robine and Michel Allard,"Jeanne Calment:Validation of the Duration of Her Life",in Validation of Exceptional Longevity (Odense University Press,1999) ISBN 87-7838-466-4

(Volume 6 of Odense Monographs on Population Aging) edited by Bernard Jeune and James W. Vaupel

Last updated: 02-10-2005 13:18:11
Last updated: 02-25-2005 21:13:14