William Viney


William Viney

I am a writer and Research Fellow at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University, UK. I write about cultural history, medicine, and data. I also write reviews and catalogue essays about literature, philosophy and the arts. 

I am a writer and an Honorary Fellow at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University, UK.

Twinkind: The Singular Significance of Twins

One of the best books we've read in 2024

Viney captures the full range of nontwin response, among much else ... Viney acknowledges the dangers of reading too much into twinhood ... Perhaps our fascination with twins is the result of that enduring, mysterious fact: As singletons, we can never really understand what it means to be multiple.

A global guide to the myths, legends and science of twins ... spans sacred west African sculptures, mythology and 1920s flappers to present a community defined by both similarity and uniqueness.

A visually fascinating study featuring dazzling photographs and artwork.

Twins have captivated the imagination for centuries, occupying a unique place in our cultural and scientific history. Twinkind looks at twins in myth and legend; anatomy, sociology, and genetics; and as sources of spectacle, entertainment, and community.

Drawing on hundreds of striking and sometimes haunting illustrations, William Viney examines depictions of twins as protagonists in creation stories ranging from Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca in Aztec mythology to Artemis and Apollo in Greek legend. He describes how twins have featured prominently in scientific research across the centuries, but especially in the work of Francis Galton, whose study of twins on the behavioral question of heredity versus environment gave rise to the pseudoscience of eugenics in the late nineteenth century. Viney explores the representation of twins in art, photography, and film—from the works of Roger Ballen to the cinema of Stanley Kubrick—and delves into the darker meanings ascribed to twins across the millennia.

A visual journey like no other, this book sheds critical light on the competing visions of twins around the world and throughout history, showing how the lived experience of twinkind has elicited profound attraction and respect, but also puzzlement, fear, and fascination.

This clever 'thematic collage' celebrates twindom in all its dyadic incarnations: from myth to medicine, from Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors to the Kray twins ... Beautiful.

Tracks the history of twin study and scholarship in the scientific community, some of which has revealed stories of twins unknowingly separated at birth and making uncannily parallel life choices.

Twinkind is an impeccably researched visual treat, and one that is necessarily partisan.

[A] scintillating study. . . . It's a meticulous inquiry into a subject of perennial fascination"


Pontus Pilot’s Wife’s Chambermaid’s Sister’s Hat

Viney, William | 2023 | Catalogue essay for the exhibition The Museum Collects Itself at The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh USA

“In the Picture”: Perspectives on Living and Working with Cancer

Day, Sophie E, Kelly Gleason, Celia Lury, Di Sherlock, William Viney, and Helen Ward | 2023 | Medical Humanities, 49: 83-92

Parklife and the Public: 40 Years of Personalization in the United Kingdom

Viney, William | 2023  |  Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 1–22


I have over 10 years of experience as an advocate and advisor in health research. I specialise in participatory approaches to healthcare data and governance, with a particular interest in democratic data stewardship – ensuring an organization’s data is accessible, trustworthy, usable, and secure. 

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