Weird History The Saga Of Feodor Vassilyev: A Man Who Fathered 22 Twins In The 1700s  

Anna Lindwasser
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Feodor Vassilyev, a peasant from Shuya, Russia was one of the most prolific fathers in recorded history. He lived from 1707-1782 and fathered 87 children before he died at the age of 76. Nearly all of these children were twins, triplets, or quadruplets. His first wife, who holds the world record for most children born to a single woman, had 69 of those children, while his second wife had 18.

Not much information exists about Vassilyev's descendants, but we do know that an astonishing 82 out of 87 children actually survived infancy, and that many of them lived in Moscow on government assistance. To some, his story might seem impossible, but others find the evidence to be quite reasonable.

His First Wife Gave Birth To 69 Children

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Photo:  Konstantin Makovsky/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Feodor Vassilyev's contribution to the whole arrangement is mind-boggling enough, but he isn't actually the most impressive person in the equation. His first wife, who gave birth to a total of 69 children, spread over 27 births, pushed the limits of the human body in a way some scientists believe should barely be possible.

Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most physically intense experiences the human body can endure, and Mrs. Vassilyev did it continuously for 18 years. That's the same amount of time that it takes to raise one child to maturity. Mrs.Vassilyev - whose first name was never revealed - holds the world record for bearing the largest number of children.

82 Out Of 87 Children Survived

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Photo:  Nikolai Nevrev/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Shockingly, 82 out of Feodor Vassilyev's 87 children survived infancy. This survival rate was quite a feat in a time when infant mortality was high. For example, every third child in 18th-century Sweden died before reaching adulthood. Because they're often born prematurely, twins, triplets, and quadruplets are less likely to make it, as are children born into poverty. Despite those odds, the Vassilyevs managed to produce 82 surviving children. 

Some People Doubt The Veracity Of The Story

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Photo: Alexey Venetsianov/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Some people don't quite believe the spectacular fertility claims made about the Vassilyevs. The chances of conceiving, carrying, and delivering that many children seem low at best, and there's no definitive proof that it actually happened. That said, it's not completely impossible.

Mrs. Vassilyev spent a total of 18 years being pregnant. Even if you account for the fact that she would have had to take breaks in between pregnancies to nurse the children she'd just delivered, she did technically have enough time for 27 pregnancies. Because the tendency toward multiple births is genetically determined, it's not preposterous that she had so many twins and triplets. 

That said, theory isn't reality. Mrs. Vassilyev's chances of surviving childbirth 27 times, as well as her kids' chances of surviving childhood, seems to some like a pipe dream at best. 

The Vassilyevs Were Doubted In Their Own Time, Too

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It isn't just modern scientists who balk at the concept of one man fathering nearly 100 children. Those seeking proof in the 18th century asked the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg, who claimed no proof was needed since the Vassilyev children resided in Moscow and received government assistance. One could also look at the records kept by the Monastery of Nikolski, which documented births in Moscow at the time.