The Guinness World Records website lists Jeanne Calment as the oldest person ever. She was 122 years and 164 days old when she died on August 4, 1997.
For a little perspective about Jeanne’s lifetime, Guinness says:
“She was born on 21 February 1875, around 14 years before the Eiffel Tower was constructed (she saw it being built), and some 15 years before the advent of movies. The year after her birth, Tolstoy published “Anna Karenina” and Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone.”
A recent investigation by Russian researchers throws Jeanne’s real age into doubt, however. In fact, mathematician Dr. Nikolay Zak and gerontologist Dr. Valery Novoselov call into question whether Jeanne was actually Jeanne at all.
Dr. Zak hypothesized that Calment may have assumed her mother’s identity upon her death to avoid paying high estate taxes on her inheritance.
In an article published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to extending the human lifespan, Dr. Valery Novoselov says:
“If we imagine the curves of survival in these studies, Jeanne is a dot away from the main trend that they describe. Most longevity records are very close to one another. Whenever a new record is set, the person dies several days or several weeks later, very rarely several months later. However, we are never speaking about years apart, definitely not several years.”
Twitter users are fascinated by this story.
— Samuel Hammond 🌐🏛 (@hamandcheese) December 29, 2018
I am obsessed with this story. World's 'oldest ever' living person may have been a fraud who assumed her mum's identity to avoid inheritance tax https://t.co/GMAdZXV8xk
— Catherine Edwards (@CatJREdwards) January 2, 2019
As a French guy I was somehow raised in the cult of Jeanne Calment, who frequently appeared on TV and had the status of a national hero. Not even sure if this (rather convincing) work made it into the national conversation ⤵️. https://t.co/7fcqZxUtRN
— Nicolas Colin 🇪🇺 (@Nicolas_Colin) December 29, 2018
Some were still quite skeptical.
No official documents to prove that she wasn’t telling the truth, but all because a person didn’t believe her age based on the fact she showed no signs of dimentia & needed little support. My gosh, even at the age he thought she was, it was a significant feat.
— Brígette (@BBricketto) January 1, 2019
I mean, it definitely proves nothing, but does raise questions. I have adjusted my beliefs from “Jeanne Calment was the oldest verified human” to “Jeanne Calment was maybe the oldest verified human.”
— David Montgomery (@dhmontgomery) December 29, 2018
Oh come on ! Judging by the photos posted in this article alone, old Jeanne looks like her younger self more than she ever looked like her daughter. The eyes, the look, the thin nose are exactly the same. Was the article documenting the effect of suggestion on people's brain ?
— Julie Le Mest (@julie_le_mest) December 30, 2018
… if this theory is true, many people in Arles must have known about it (and colluded in keeping the secret) for decades. #JeanneCalment
— John Cartwright (@JohnLoony) December 31, 2018
Some people enjoyed speculating and providing more evidence.
Here’s more evidence why Jeanne Calment's identity might have been stolen by her daughter in 1930s. Spoiler: old and young Jeanne's ears are different, and she says here eyes were green while ID card said "black".https://t.co/69pFGo7siV
— Yuri Deigin (@ydeigin) December 30, 2018
They didn't look alike (see attached). The best evidence is their different hair and eye color. Jeanne's ID said both were black, but old Jeanne said in a 1988 interview she was a green-eyed brunette. In her old photos the eyes are indeed green. pic.twitter.com/gjy5rmz3YA
— Yuri Deigin (@ydeigin) December 29, 2018
Here is a brief depiction of the problem with Jeanne Calment’s record. She claimed an age of 44,724 days. (GRG’s website is now an annoying mess, but the “wave front” of human lifespan hasn’t approached her since 2015) pic.twitter.com/N8gB5OuqQ4
— Colby Cosh (@colbycosh) December 26, 2018
Until more evidence surfaces, this will probably remain a fascinating mystery.