By T.V. Antony Raj
On July 26, 2012, I posted an article titled “News: A woman gave birth to 11 baby boys in Surat, India.” Yesterday, Gurdip Singh Suri, a reader, commented:
“IT is nothing as per news over internet file Mr Vassilyev and his first wife, holds the record for most children a couple has parented. She gave birth to a total of 69 children. She gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 births. 67 of the 69 children born are said to have survived infancy.” (sic)
In an article titled “Feodor Vassilyev and Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalances” posted on November 13, 2011, in zerogeography.net, Mark Graham says:
Two papers in particular demonstrated the gender imbalances not only exist, but also significantly influence the types of information that exist in Wikipedia (the papers were titled ‘An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalance’ and ‘Gender Differences in Wikipedia Editing’.
Perhaps the most interesting discussion of these imbalances came during a talk by Jen Lowe when she brought up the Wikipedia article on Feodor Vassilyev.
Feodor is apparently notable enough for a Wikipedia article because his wife sets the record for the most children birthed by a single woman. Just to reiterate, it is Mr. Vassilyev and not Mrs. Vassilyev who is deemed notable enough to have a Wikipedia article here!
This prompted me to learn more about this uncanny phenomenon.
The first published account about Feodor Vassilyev and his children appeared in the September 1783 issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 53, Part 2, p.753, published in London that features a letter written by a person who has signed his name as X.Y.
Here is a facsimile of that letter:
The writer concludes:
“The above relation, however astonishing, may be depended upon, as it came directly from an English merchant in St Petersburg to his relatives in England, who added that the peasant was to be introduced to the Empress. A few such subjects would remove the great deficit of population in her extensive dominions.”
In 1989, in Quadruples and Higher Multiple Births, on pages 96-97 under the heading “Feodor Vassilyev: a case of remarkable fecundity” Marie M. Clay wrote:
Marie Clay notes: “Sadly, this evasion of proper investigation seems, in retrospect, to have dealt a terminal blow to our chances of ever establishing the true detail of this extraordinary case”.
In Saint Petersburg Panorama, Bashutski, 1834, the author notes that:
“In the day of 27 February 1782, the list from Nikolskiy monastery came to Moscow containing the information that a peasant of the Shuya district, Feodor Vassilyev, married twice, had 87 children. His first wife in 27 confinements gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. His second wife in eight confinements gave birth to six pairs of twins and two sets of triplets. F. Vassilyev was 75 at that time with 82 of his children alive.”
Many have raised doubts about the truth of these claims. In 1933, Julia Bell, M.A., M.R.C.P., published an article titled “PLURAL BIRTHS WITH A NEW PEDIGREE” in Biometrika, states that a 1790 book Statistische Schilderung von Rutsland written by B. F. J. Hermann provided the claims about the children of Feodor Vassilyev, but “with a caution”. Bell also states that in 1878, The Lancet reported this case in an article about the study of twins. This article states that the French Academy of Sciences attempted to verify the claims about Vassilyev’s children and contacted M. Khanikoff of the Imperial Academy of St Petersburg for advice as to the means they should pursue. Khanikoff told that all investigation were superfluous, and the members of the family still lived in Moscow and that they had been the object of favours from the Government.
However, here is the story.
Feodor Vassilyev a peasant from Shuya, Russia was born around 1707 and died in 1782. Between 1725 and 1765, his first wife Valentina gave birth to a total of 69 children: 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets in a total of 27 births. Out of the 69 children born, 67 survived infancy.
His second wife gave birth to six pairs of twins and two sets of triplets totalling 18 children in eight births.
So, Feodor Vassilyev sired 87 children in 35 births.