France defends status of world's oldest person

French woman Jeanne Calment, the oldest person ever to have lived who died at the age of 122, has been defended by French scientists after being accused of being a fraud by a Russian mathematician.

RUSSIA (REUTERS) - Jeanne Calment - the world's oldest person - can rest easy again.

The French scientists who originally validated her title before her death in 1997, rushed to her defence on Thursday (Jan 3) - dismissing new Russian claims that she did not really survive to the very ripe old age of 122.

They said in fact that her daughter Yvonne took on her mother's identity decades earlier in a tax avoidance scheme.

Not so, said the French validation team, who called the accusation a "ridiculous controversy".

Russian mathematician Nikolay Zak accused them of ignoring the evidence.

"I think the validators themselves suspected that there was a change of identity," said Mr Zak. "When I talked to them during my research, their replies were very strange. They said one thing, then they changed their minds, then avoided me, pretending to be in another country, even though they were in France, and said they forgot and so on."

Mr Zak cited discrepancies between the colour of Jeanne Calment's eyes, her height and the shape of her forehead, comparing a copy of a 1930s identity card to her appearance later in life.

But for now, the record stands, in line with official French documents which actually state Jeanne Calment was born in 1875 - and definitely long outlived her daughter Yvonne.