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Thailand’s Siamese Twins

Siam as Thailand was previously known is where the term Siamese twins comes from. Siamese twins (conjoined twins) are identical twins whose bodies are joined in utero.

This rare phenomenon is estimated to occur in 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 100,000 births, with higher incidents in Asia.

The most famous Siamese twins, and the ones who thanks to their fame and the rarity of the condition gave it its name, were Chang and Eng Bunker who lived from 1811 to 1874.

The twins, who were born in the Samutsongkram province to a fisherman and his wife, were joined by a band of flesh, cartilage and their livers fused at the torso. Had they have been born today they could easily have been separated, however as 19th century medicine did not allow for this the twins stayed together.

In 1829 British merchant Robert Hunter discovered the Bunker brothers and exhibited them as a curiosity during a world tour, once that contract had reached its completion they went into business for themselves and in 1839 settled in Wilkesboro, North Carolina and became naturalized United States citizens where they took the name Bunker as well as a plantation and slaves in order to live as normal a life as possible.

siamese twins 2On April the 13th 1843 Chang married Adelaide Yates and Eng married her sister Sarah Anne resulting in the first double first cousins that were genetically equivalent to half-siblings, being that Chang and Eng were identical twins. Chang and his wife went on to have ten children and Eng and his wife eleven at their Traphill home with its bed made for four. Squabbling wives however resulted in the creation of two separate households just west of Mount Airy where the twins alternated spending three days in each home.

In January 1874 Eng awoke to find his brother had died of pneumonia and summoned a doctor for an emergency separation that Eng went on to refuse and himself died just three hours later. Chang’s widow died in 1892 and Eng’s in 1917.

The fused liver of the Bunker brothers was preserved and is on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. Through their 21 sets of children, include several sets of non-conjoined twins there are now 1500 direct descendants from this fascinating pair.

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