Emma Morano, Last Person Born in 1800s, Dies

Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters
Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Emma Morano, the last surviving person hailing from the 1800s, died this weekend. She took our human link to simpler times with her.

The Italian was born in a kingdom but died in a republic. Yet she never lived more than 20 miles from her place of birth. Time makes immigrants of us all if we live long enough.

She entered and exited a world with inhabitants innocent of a Soviet Union, not recognizing Pluto as a planet, or knowing anything called Eastern Airlines. In fact, the Wright Brothers’ first flight, Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic, and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon all lay in the future in 1899. No radio stations, televisions, computers, or internet marked her earliest days of existence.

How long did Mrs. Morano live?

Ernest Hemingway, Humphrey Bogart, Al Capone, and Duke Ellington all came into the world in 1899 as well. They all died more than a half century ago. Life expectancy averaged about fifty years upon Morano’s birth. So, by the expectations of the late 19th century, she lived more than two lifetimes. The discovery of penicillin, the creation of vaccines for polio, yellow fever, and tuberculosis, and the invention of CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs all helped extend existence over her existence.

She married upon the threat of death, and separated upon the reality of bodily harm. She nevertheless remained married to her husband until his death in 1978–40 years after the separation–in part because Italy only legalized divorce in 1970. She said her one true love died in World War I.

Morano credited her longevity to diet, which rebelled against modern medical advice while conforming to medical advice given to her about a century ago, in its reliance on raw eggs. “I eat two eggs a day, and that’s it–and cookies,” she told the AFP last year. “But I do not eat much because I have no teeth.”

The lesson? Pull your teeth if you long for longevity. Or, perhaps go full Rocky Balboa and down a cup of raw yolks everyday. Alas, the best advice instructs us to enter the world with the type of genetics that only comes along once every 117 years.