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The New York Times

The Closest of Strangers

May 23, 2014

By Nancy L. Segal

Earlier this month, I helped reunite the fraternal twins Ann Hunt and Liz Hamel, who had been apart for 78 years. Born in England in 1936, they were separated at birth when their unmarried mother decided she could not care for both. Ann, the “prettier” sister, was given away, while Liz, the “less adoptable” baby marked by scoliosis, remained at home. Ann Hunt was unaware that she was a twin until last year, when her daughter made the discovery while researching their ancestry.

Ms. Hunt and Ms. Hamel are the longest-separated twins on record. I learned about them a year ago, at which point they had spoken by phone and by Skype but had not met in person. (Ms. Hunt lives in England, Ms. Hamel in the United States.) As a psychological researcher who specializes in twin studies, I knew immediately that I wanted to reunite them and observe the impact of their meeting on their lives. I invited them to participate in a behavioral investigation at the Twin Studies Center that I direct at California State University, Fullerton, and they accepted.

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