In 1616 in Padua, Italy, Fortunio Liceti, a professor of natural philosophy and medicine, wrote and published the first edition of De Monstruorum Causis, Natura et Differentiis (On the Reasons, Nature, and Differences of Monsters), hereafter De monstruorum. In De monstruorum, Liceti chronologically documented cases of human and animal monsters from antiquity to the seventeenth century. During the seventeenth century, many people considered such monsters as frightening signs of evil cursed by spiritual or supernatural entities. Liceti categorized monsters based on their potential causes, several of which he claimed were unrelated to the supernatural. Historians later noted that some documented monsters were infants with birth defects. In De monstruorum, Liceti elevated the status of monsters to potential subjects of scientific inquiry and provided an early model for the study of birth defects, a field later called teratology.
Fortunio Liceti studied natural philosophy and medicine in Italy during the first half of the seventeenth century. Liceti wrote greater than seventy works on a wide range of topics, including the human soul, reproduction, and birth defects observed in animals and human infants. In the seventeenth century, people commonly addressed birth defects using superstition and considered them as signs of evil, possibly caused by spiritual or supernatural entities. Liceti described infants with birth defects as prodigies and monsters to be admired and studied rather than feared. Liceti’s works established monsters as a possible subject of scientific inquiry and served as models for the future study of birth defects, a field later called teratology. Liceti was one of the first scholars to attempt to systematically categorize birth defects based on their causes, including multiple causes unrelated to the supernatural.
Chāng (Chang) and Ēn (Eng) Bunker were conjoined twins in the nineteenth century in the United States, the first pair of conjoined twins whose condition was well documented in medical records. A conjoined twins is a rare condition in which two infants are born physically connected to each other. In their youth, the brothers earned money by putting themselves on display as curiosities and giving lectures and demonstrations about their condition. The Bunker brothers toured around the world, including the United States, Europe, Canada, and France, and allowed physicians to examine them. Due to the popularity of their exhibition and their origin from Siam (later called Thailand), they became known as the Siamese twins, a term that was used to describe conjoined twins in general until the twentieth century. During their travels and, later, with the autopsy they received, the Bunker brothers provided insight about the development of twins and conjoined twins.