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Abstract

In November 1829, the “Siamese twins” Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–74) arrived in London.1 They had already appeared in New York City and Boston, where astonishment had been aroused by the living band of tissue uniting their bodies (see figure 1.1). But now, in London, they appeared before “the most eminent professors of Surgery and Medicine in the Metropolis,” in order that the precise nature of this union might be ascertained.2 One of those examining the twins was Dr. Peter Mark Roget (later to be famous for inventing the thesaurus), whose mode of experimentation partook of the contemporary vogue for galvanism. But rather than bringing corpses into “life,” as in other such experiments—or even fabricating “life” as such, as the preface to the revised edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1831) would soon suggest—this experiment turned on the phenomenon of bimetallic galvanism. According to one of those present, George Buckley Bolton,

a silver teaspoon was placed on the tongue of one of the twins, and a disk of zinc on the tongue of his brother: when the metals thus placed were brought into contact, the youths both cried out “Sour, Sour!” This experiment was repeated several times with the same result, and was reversed by exchanging the positions of the metals, when a similar effect was produced.3

Keywords

Time Machine Short Story Privileged Status Love Affair Mechanical Equivalent 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    The most comprehensive account of the twins’ life is Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace’s The Two: A Biography (London: Cassell, 1978). For a suggestive, theoretically informed account, see Hillel Schwartz, The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles (New York: Zone, 1996), 52–59.Google Scholar
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