Twins Separated at Birth

The story of Jim Lewis and Jim Springer

(from Smithsonian, 1980) Jim Lewis and Jim Springer first met February 9, 1979, after 39 years of being separated. Both were very nervous at first, but now consider the reunion "the most important day of my life." Amid the euphoria over their rediscovery of each other, they came across astonishing similarities in their lives and behavior. Both had been adopted by separate families in Ohio, and had grown up within 45 miles of each other. Both had been named James by their adoptive parents, both had married twice; first to women named Linda and second to women named Betty. Both had children, including sons named James Allan. Both had at one time owned dogs named Toy.

These parallels made them perfect candidates for behavioral research, as did their only short aquaintence with one another before they were inducted into a study of reunited twins. The parallels were only the first in a series of similarities which would go to the heart of the influence of heredity and environment on human behavior. Dr. Thomas Bouchard of University of Minnesota studied the personalities and attitudes of the twin Jims, and the resulting similarities were again astonishing. In one test which measured personality variables (tolorance, conformity, flexibility), the twins' scores were so close that they approximated the averaging of the totals of one person taking the test twice. Brain wave tests produced skyline-like graphs looking like 2 views of the same city. Intelligence tests, mental abilities, gestures, voice tones, likes and dislikes, were similar as well. So were medical histories: both had high blood pressure, both had experienced what they thought were heart attacks, both had undergone vasectomies, and both suffered from migrane headaches. They even used the same words to describe these headaches. To read more about the conclusions of studies on twins reunited later in life, click here.

The twins discovered they shared alike habits too. Both chain-smoked, both liked beer, both had woodworking workshops in their garages. Both drove Chevys, both had served as Sheriff's deputies in nearby Ohio counties. They had even vacationed on the same beach in the Florida Gulf Coast. Both lived in the only house on their block. The same patterns shared by the Jim Twins occurred time and time again. Their differences, more apparent now since some time has passed, are more subtle. According to Jim Springer, "the differences between Jim and me may be the differences between living in the city and country."

Lewis was responsible for their reunion. Both of the twins had been told as youngsters that they had a twin brother, but Springer's mother told him his twin had died. Lewis wasn't interested in finding his missing brother until later in his life, but "didn't do anything about it" until 2 years before they eventually met. He went to the courthouse and found Jim Springer's name. It was only a short time later that Lewis had Springer on the phone and their families agreed to meet. "We were both nervous wrecks on the phone." Their genetic similarities and environmental differences aside, their twin bond is now restored.

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