Jim Lewis and Jim Springer
I am a Gemini, so I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of twins. I often fantasized that there was a twin that didn’t make it to make my birth but there is no proof that ever happened. I have a sister only 13 months younger than me and when we were young, we were often dressed alike, as though we were twins – then she got much bigger than me. When I had my daughter, she would say that we were twins when she was still very young and I wondered if she was my missing twin, later born to me as her mom instead. That probably didn’t happen either. In assisted reproduction, there is a circumstance known as a vanishing twin (I experienced that with my oldest son’s conception). Adding to my own interest is the fact that I married a man who’s father is a twin. His twin brother, who was deaf due to an illness he was afflicted with when he was very young, was always tickled when local people would mistake him for my father-in-law.
Twins who were separated after birth have often been studied with remarkable results considering they were not raised together. These kinds of identical twins provide a rare opportunity for scientists to study how environment versus heredity influences human development – nurture vs nature.
Such is the case with the Jim twins. Identical twins that were separated at birth after they were placed for adoption. They did not meet one another until they were finally reunited at the age of 39. Even their wives have the same name as both married women named Linda and both divorced their wives several years later. Then both brothers married a second time to women named Betty. They also both had sons who each named – James Allan.
The Jim twins were born in 1940. Each was given the same first name by their respective adoptive parents. They even grew up just 40 miles apart from each other, their lives lived in a kind of parallel existence. Jim Lewis grew up knowing that he had a twin brother. Jim Springer’s mother had told him that his twin had passed away as a baby. Both had a brother named Larry and a dog called Toy. They shared the same interests in school – mathematics and woodwork – and both hated spelling. They shared a common interest in mechanical drawing and block lettering.
Both ended being heavy chain smokers and even owned the same make of car – a Chevrolet. They took vacations and went to the same Florida beach resort. Even so, they never encountered each other at the time. While their employment was not identical, their jobs were similar – Jim Lewis worked as a security guard and Jim Springer became a deputy sheriff.
Eventually, Jim Lewis went to an Ohio courthouse seeking contact details for his long-lost twin brother. They spoke to one another on the phone and subsequently agreed to meet. Even though Jim Springer did not know his twin was still alive, he said he had “always felt an emptiness” growing up.
A study of the two men by Dr Thomas Bouchard, director of the Minnesota Study Project – Twins Reared Apart, discovered that their medical histories and even their brain-wave tests were almost identical. They both suffered a type of migraine headache that began when they were at the age of 18. Both suffer the same degree of disability and the same frequency — and they even use almost identical words to describe it. The cause may be far more biological than doctors in the field have believed. The twins also scored nearly identical on a personality test. During that study, when asked to create a picture, they even drew the exact same thing.
“We even use the same slang,” Jim Lewis notes. “A lot of times, I’ll start to say something, and he’ll finish it!” Researchers have said this phenomenon can be attributed to the twins having remarkably similar brain waves. This causes the perception that some identical twins “think alike.” One has to wonder if there are genetic influences that affect our life choices.
Information about twins is being gathered and analyzed globally. Most of the Scandinavian countries maintain a twin registry. The Swedes, for instance, have data on 26,000 pairs of twins, dating back as far as 1886. In Rome, more than 15,000 pairs of twins are registered with the pioneering Gregor Mendel Institute for Medical Genetics and Twin Studies. And here in the United States, there is another one at the National Academy of Sciences — National Research Council’s Twin Registry. That director is Zdenek Hrubec. He keeps tabs on 16,000 pairs of male twins, in which both have served in the military.
There are an estimated 100 million twins in the world. Identical twins are called monozygotic twins because they develop from a single fertilized egg that later divides to produce two embryos that are genetically identical. About 3.5 identical twins occur in every 1,000 live births, a rate that has remained constant without regard to socio‐economic factors or even individual characteristics such as maternal age. In extremely rare cases (usually involving some chromosomal abnormalities), twins of opposite genders are born. Only one in three twin births produces identical twins. Much more common are fraternal twins. This occurs when two eggs are fertilized about the same time. Genetically speaking, these “twins” are no more similar than any other siblings.
There is some progress in adoptionland – identical twins are rarely separated and reared apart today. Thanks to more enlightened welfare policies and changing social attitudes that have removed the social disgrace that was once associated with illegitimacy.
There is much more information than I have shared here in this New York Times article – LINK>Twins Reared Apart: A Living Lab.