What makes us … nature or nurture?
An extraordinary new documentary about identical triplets who were separated at birth has reignited the debate over the dominance of DNA in controlling our behaviour and the way we live our lives
Robert Shafran’s first inkling that his life would soon be turned on its head occurred on his first day at college in upstate New York in 1980. His fellow students greeted him like a longlost friend. “Guys slapped me on the back, girls hugged and kissed me,” he recalls. Yet Robert had never set foot inside Sullivan County Community College until that day.
Another student, Eddy Galland, who had studied at the college the previous year, was the cause of the confusion, it transpired. Eddy was his spitting image, said classmates. Robert was intrigued and went to Eddy’s home to confront him.
“As I reached out to knock on the door, it opened – and there I am,” says Robert, recalling his first meeting with Eddy in the forthcoming documentary Three Identical Strangers.
The two young men had the same facial features, the same heavy build, the same dark complexions, the same mops of black curly hair – and the same birthday: 12 July 1961. They were identical twins, a fact swiftly confirmed from hospital records. Each knew he had been adopted but neither was aware he had a twin. Their story made headlines across the US.
One reader – David Kellman, a student at a different college – was particularly interested. Robert and Eddy also looked astonishingly like him. So he contacted Eddy’s adoptive mother, who was stunned to come across, in only a few weeks, two young men who were identical in appearance to her son. “My God, they
Identical triplets (from left) Eddy Galland, David Kellman and Robert Shafran, who were separated at birth.Neon Films