Monday, May 11, 2009

The Siamese Twins of the Mutter Museum

On this date in 1811, the world-famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng, were born in Siam (now known as Thailand). At the ages of 18, Scottish merchant, Robert Hunter, hired the young men and introduced them into the world of show business. They began to travel the world and were billed the "Siamese Twins" in reference to their country of origin. Their legacy would become so strong that the name "Siamese Twins" is still incorrectly used as a reference for conjoined twins to this day.

A month after their death in 1874, the wives of the two men agreed to let their corpses be examined by the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A full autopsy followed that ultimately delivered some very grim news. Chang had died of natural causes, but Eng's death was attributed to either the extreme fright of being attached to a then-dead twin or sepsis from his brother's dead blood traveling through his own body. Although medicine was not advanced enough to determine if the brothers could be separated safely in life, the autopsy more or less confirmed that they probably could have led separate, healthy lives. Ligaments, skin, and a portion of their livers were all that conjoined the two men.

For a short time, their body was exhibited to medical professionals at the now-famous Mutter Museum in Philadelphia before being returned to their families in North Carolina (see White Plains Baptist Church Cemetery, Mt. Airy, NC). However, before the bodies left the museum, a death cast was made for future studies and the conjoined liver was removed. Both are still on display at the Mutter Museum to this day and are only a tiny part of the vast collections of medical oddities, specimens, and antique medical equipment - making it one of the more bizarre, but vastly popular tourist stops in Philadelphia.

Read about more exhibits at the Mutter Museum.

-Casey H.

No comments: