conjoined twins Human Marvels

RITTA & CHRISTINA – Early Conjoined Twins

Ritta and Christina Parodi are likely the best documented case of conjoined twining in the early 19th century. The details of their life and death, in the form of detailed autopsy reports, are well known. Their life was remarkably short, due in part to their popularity.

The twins were born in Sassare, Sardina on March 3, 1829 and were the last in a family of eight. The Parodis were quite poor, but upon the birth of the twins they spent their savings on a trip to France, with the assumption that doctors and naturalists would scramble to study the twins. However, upon arriving in France, the family had no idea of how to promote the twins and became increasingly destitute. They initially tried to display the twins publicly but were constantly denied by city officials. Eventually word did get out and physicians came to them. Unfortunately, constant observation interrupted the twins sleep and exposed them to chills. Ritta, who was sickly since birth and steadily growing weaker, quietly passed on November 23, 1829 while suckling from their mother. Christina, who up to that point had been both healthy and alert, died only moments later. They had lived for only eight months.

The pair was distinct from the shoulders up. But below the navel they shared one set of genitals, one anus, on pelvis and one set of legs. During autopsy, it was revealed that the viscera of the pair were transposed to each other. The viscera – heart included – formed mirror images of each other. It was likely this ‘backwards heart’ that caused Ritta to be so sick and weakly.

The twins’ skeleton as well as a plaster cast of their body is currently in the possession of the Natural History Museum in Paris. However, neither is currently on display.

Excerpts of the above taken from the work of Armand Marie Leroi and his book Mutants.


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