The International Society for Twin Studies (ISTS) has lost a valued friend and colleague. Dr Louis Keith, Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, in Chicago, passed away on Sunday, July 6, 2014.
Louis Keith was a founding member of ISTS (1974), a society he nourished and treasured throughout his lifetime. Together with his identical twin brother Donald, Louis was a familiar presence at every triennial (and now biennial) meeting. He offered marvelous insights into many areas of twinship, in addition to his particular areas of expertise, namely the biological bases and gynecological aspects of twinning.
One of my earliest associations with Louis was in Chicago where, in September 1988, he organized the VI Working Party on Multiple Birth as part of the ISTS. It was a terrific event, bringing together many experts who addressed a diverse array of topics. Some years later, I appeared with him on a television talk show where we disagreed over twins’ ability to communicate telepathically. Louis believed that twins could exchange information in this way, but I never saw credible scientific evidence to support that claim. The audience, composed almost completely of identical twins, sided with Louis. I held to my view and Louis respected my position.
Louis's life and work touched those of many of our colleagues. Professor Paolo Parisi, in Italy, wrote:
I first had the privilege of meeting [Louis] at the First International Congress on Twin Studies in Rome in 1974, and our encounter gave start to a collaboration, and above all a friendship that was to last ever since. He supported from the beginning our efforts to promote twin research, and was in fact greatly appreciated by Luigi Gedda and other founding fathers, and he was one of the main forces behind the establishment and subsequent development of the International Society for Twin Studies, with a commitment that characterized his entire life. With him goes an important part of our professional life and scientific history.
Louis was a prolific writer and his books on the biology of twinning are among the best sources available. In my view, one of his best works is An Atlas of Multiple Pregnancy: Biology and Pathology, coauthored with Geoffrey Machin (Machin & Keith, 1999). Another source that I frequently consult is Multiple Pregnancy: Epidemiology. Gestation and Perinatal Outcome, coedited with Isaac Blickstein (Blickstein & Keith, 2006); Louis's twin brother Donald served as an Associate Editor on that volume and David Teplica contributed his marvelous photographs.
With the next Twin Congress occurring in November 2014, I am reminded of a photograph taken at one of the final sessions at the 2012 meeting in Florence, ‘Books, Media and Twins’. The entire front row was filled with twins: two intact twin pairs (Adam and David Tárnoki; Louis and Donald Keith) and three single twins (art student Mònica del Rey Jordà, filmmaker Anna Van der Wee, and myself). That unposed picture underlines the great interest and personal investment that twins share in research and in friendship, both within and between pairs. This particular photograph may also be the last one taken of the Keith twins together at an ISTS event. It was published in Twin Research and Human Genetics (Segal, 2012).
My ongoing studies of twin loss have highlighted the many unique consequences of losing a twin, for the surviving co-twin and for family and friends. These studies did not, however, prepare me for the loss of Louis Keith.