Life expectancy is longer than it’s ever been, and there were already hundreds of people claiming to be more than 100 years old in 1910. But Dr. Woods Hutchinson investigated and decided they were all wrong:
“I don’t mean that such men and women are wilful liars. I believe they are mistaken. Many of them don’t know when they were born. Many of them become almost feeble-minded and believe they are a great deal older than they are.
“Oftentimes a person who does not know his age is told at 60 that he looks to be 80, and ever afterward computes his age from that basis. If he lives to be 82 he is declared to have lived to be 102. If he lives to be 90 he is said to have lived to be 110.”
But, the article notes, if Dr. Hutchinson is right, “this means almost all of the rest of the world is wrong”:
Germany, a year or two ago, with a population of 33,600,000, claimed 78 centenarians; France, 213; England, 145; Scotland, 46; Denmark, 2; Belgium, 3; Sweden, 10; Norway, 23; Spain, 410, while the Balkan States outdid the world with a claim of one centenarian to each 100 of population.
For me, the most surprising thing in this article was the revelation that in 1910 elephants were believed to live to 300 years old. According to a recent Discovery Channel article, the median lifespan of African elephants in the wild is actually 56 years.
Dr. Hutchinson, incidentally, died in 1930 at just 68 years old.
“NO CENTENARIAN LIVING,” SAYS DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON: And Probably Only Three Ever Lived to be Over 100 Years of Age He Concludes After Studying the Question of Centenarianism (PDF)
From June 19, 1910