Karl Oskar Illmensee studied the cloning and reproduction of fruit flies, mice, and humans in the US and Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Illmensee used nuclear transfer techniques (cloning) to create early mouse embryos from adult mouse cells, a technique biologists used in later decades to help explain how embryonic cells function during development. In the early 1980s, Illmensee faced accusations of fraud when others were unable to replicate the results of his experiments with cloned mouse embryos. Illmensee also worked with human embryos, investigating how embryos split to form identical twins.

In the article “The History of Twins, As a Criterion of the Relative Powers of Nature and Nurture,” Francis Galton describes his study of twins. Published in 1875 in Fraser’s Magazine in London, England, the article lays out Galton’s use of twins to examine and distinguish between the characteristics people have at birth and the characteristics they receive from the circumstances of life and experience. Galton calls those factors nature and nurture. Based on his study, Galton concluded that nature has a larger effect than nurture on development. By studying twins, Galton introduced a way to examine the effects of nature and nurture in people who were born with similar traits, which allowed him to focus on the effects of experience on a person’s development.

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.

National Geographic's documentary In the Womb: Identical Twins focuses on the prenatal development of human identical twins. Director Lorne Townend uses three-dimensional (3D) and four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound imaging and microscopy to depict twin development , genetic and epigenetic variations in the fetuses, and methods of fetal survival in the confines of the womb. Artist renditions of scientific data fill in areas of development inaccessible to the imaging tools. The 50-minute film describes the lives twins live after birth and describes new research that identical twins might not be as identical as once thought. In the womb: Identical Twins is a sequel to the 2005 National Geographic film In the Womb.

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