The National Library of Medicine is presenting an online exhibit dedicated to the history and medicine of conjoined twins, including dozens of old drawings, photographs, and the written story of the evolution of treatments.
From medieval times through the Enlightenment conjoined twins were viewed as monsters. Their existence simultaneously horrified and amazed the common person. The established medical explanation of the day, from Hippocrates, reasoned that a conjoined twin was simply the result of there being too much seed available at conception for just one child, but not enough for two distinct beings. Even so, popular theories fueled the public’s fear and wonder by suggesting that conjoined twins were the result of impure conception or the witnessing of some evil or traumatic event during pregnancy.
Books depicting all sorts of monsters, both real and imagined, were extremely popular among the literate during this period. The authors often copied extensively from each other, bringing long told tales with new illustrations to another generation of the fascinated. Images of conjoined twins from some of the more popular works by Jacob Locher, Fortunio Liceti, the respected surgeon Ambroise Pare, and the anonymous author of Aristotle’s Compleat Masterpiece are displayed…
View the exhibit online: From ‘Monsters’ to Modern Medical Miracles – Selected moments in the history of conjoined twins from medieval to modern times