Dubbed the "Elephant Man," Joseph Merrick was a British man who was subjected to public ridicule and cruelty because of his extreme physical deformity, reports Biography. As a young adult, he worked as a street performer in a "freak show," where he was discovered by surgeon Frederick Treves.
Although he was born with a normal appearance, Merrick began to exhibit symptoms of his disease as a toddler. He developed a prominent lump on his forehead that eventually grew to resemble an elephant's trunk. Merrick's skin also became excessively loose, while his arms, legs, hands and feet became grotesquely enlarged.
As a young man, Merrick had difficulty sustaining regular employment because his appearance frightened many customers. Consequently, he spent five years in the Leicester workhouse, a dismal institution for the poor.
Merrick died at the age of 27. It is probable that his death was caused by the weight of his grossly enlarged head, which crushed his windpipe.