25 Middle Children Who Did Big Things

Photo by Keystone/Getty Images
Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

Though children in the middle of the birth order may have a reputation for being "embittered wallflowers," experts have discovered that the stereotype is far from the truth. Instead, middle children tend to be empathetic, independent thinkers who don't feel the need to conform to societal norms. Still not convinced? We'll let these 25 middle children speak for themselves.

1. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Honest Abe had an older sister, Sarah, who was more like a mother to him after their mother died when he was just 9 years old. He also had a younger brother, Thomas, who died at three days old. Sadly, Sarah and her infant died due to childbirth complications when she was just 20.

2. WARREN BUFFETT

An older man (financial guru Warren Buffett) in a suit, a red tie, and glasses has his leg crossed at the knee and is smiling slightly.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The financial guru also known as the Oracle of Omaha is sandwiched between two sisters: Doris and Roberta. Doris now heads the Sunshine Lady Foundation, an organization that provides funding and opportunities for disadvantaged people. Roberta, or “Bertie,” who calls herself the “quiet one,” is also a philanthropist.

3. PRINCESS DIANA

Born Diana Frances Spencer, Princess Diana was the fourth of five children; she had two older sisters and a younger brother. (Another brother lived only a few hours after birth.) Prince Charles actually dated Diana's sister Sarah first, but there were no hard feelings: "I introduced them," Sarah later claimed. "I'm Cupid."

4. DAVID LETTERMAN

A smiling, bearded man (David Letterman) stands on stage wearing a suit and a striped tie.
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Peabody

The former late night host has an older sister, Janice, and a younger sister, Gretchen. Gretchen was a journalist at the Tampa Bay Times for 31 years.

5. BILL GATES

Another success story surrounded by sisters, Gates was born between older sister Kristi and younger sister Libby.

6. PEYTON MANNING

Peyton Manning, wearing a football jersey with a collared shirt underneath, smiles and waves.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

You know about younger brother Eli, also a Super Bowl champ. But Peyton also has an older brother, Cooper, who hosts The Manning Hour on Fox Sports.

7. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

His older sister, Dr. Christine King Farris, was a professor at Spelman College and has written several books. His younger brother, Alfred Daniel, also an activist and pastor, drowned in his home swimming pool just 15 months after King was assassinated in 1968. Alfred was a strong swimmer—his family has since speculated that he was also murdered.

8. BRITNEY SPEARS

A blonde woman (performer Britney Spears) wearing a black choker necklace is smiling directly at the camera.
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Clear Channel

You may know Britney's younger sister Jamie Lynn for her Nickelodeon sitcom Zoey 101 or for her work as a country music singer and songwriter. The Spears sisters also have an older brother, Bryan, who has produced various projects for his family.

9. JOHN F. KENNEDY

As part of the famous Kennedy clan, John was the second of nine children. The first, Joseph Jr., was being groomed for the presidency until he was killed during a WWII mission. JFK's younger siblings were Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Ted.

10. MADONNA

The singer Madonna singing into a microphone on stage, wearing a black drapey costume and holding a black guitar.
Graham Denholm/Getty Images

She has two older brothers, Anthony and Martin, and three younger siblings—Paula, Christopher, and Melanie. Christopher worked closely with his sister for decades, but his 2008 tell-all book caused a rift between them.

11. CHARLES DARWIN

The father of evolution had three older sisters, one older brother, and a younger sister. He was exceptionally close with his brother Erasmus, known affectionately as "Uncle Ras" to Darwin's children.

12. DIANA ROSS

Singer Diana Ross, wearing a formal black dress with sheer sleeves, smiles and lifts her hair back as she stands in front of a  wall emblazoned with Grammy Awards.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Diana, the second of six children, isn’t the only star in the family: Her sister, Barbara, is a rock star in the medical field. Barbara Ross-Lee is known for helping to modernize the way physicians are educated, and has served as the dean of Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine as well as Vice President for Health Sciences and Medical Affairs and Dean of the School of Allied Health and Life Sciences at the New York Institute of Technology.

13. ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Hemingway was the second child of six: Marcelline was a year older than him, Ursula was three years younger, Sunny was five years younger, Carol was 12 years younger, and the baby of the family, Leicester, was 16 years younger. Sadly, Leicester followed in his older brother's footsteps and committed suicide at the age of 67.

14. MICHAEL JORDAN

Basketball player Michael Jordan, wearing a light blue, long-sleeved Carolina Football shirt with the Air Jordan symbol in the middle, sticks his tongue out and smiles in front of a crowd.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The basketball legend is one of five kids: Three older siblings Larry, James, and Deloris, and younger sister Roslyn. According to their father, Larry was the son with the future in basketball—until Michael shot up five inches between his sophomore and junior year of high school. It's said that Michael chose the number 23 because he hoped to be even half as good as his brother, who wore number 45.

15. THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Teddy Roosevelt's older sister, Anna or "Bamie", raised his oldest daughter, Alice, when her mother died shortly after giving birth. Younger brother Elliott was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt, while youngest sister Corinne was a poet and writer.

16. CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTE

A painting of three women with dark, curly hair sitting in a semi-circle and wearing dark, old-fashioned dresses.

National Portrait Gallery // Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Charlotte and Emily are the most well-known Brontës, thanks to their respective novels Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died of tuberculosis within six weeks of each other. Younger sister Anne was also a writer who produced work under the male pen name Acton Bell. She died of tuberculosis at age 29. Between Charlotte and Emily was the sole Brontë brother, Branwell, a painter and writer who also died young of—you guessed it—tuberculosis.

17. MICHAEL JACKSON

The King of Pop's older siblings were Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, LaToya, and Marlon. His younger siblings were Randy and Janet. Brandon, twin to Marlon, was stillborn. All of the Jackson children were musically successful—in addition to the Jackson Five, each of them had at least one hit on the Billboard charts.

18. WALT DISNEY

A black and white photo of Walt Disney wearing a suit coat and smiling up and to the right.
R. Mitchell/Express/Getty Images

If you’re a Disney buff or even a casual follower of the Disney company, you probably know Walt’s older brother Roy, who was the financial brain behind Disney operations. Brothers Herbert and Raymond were also older than Walt; his younger sister was named Ruth.

19. MARK TWAIN

He was the sixth of seven children, though only three of his siblings survived to adulthood: Orion, Henry, and Pamela. Sadly, Henry Clemens didn't make it much beyond childhood—he died at age 19 after being badly burned when a boiler exploded on the steamboat Pennsylvania.

20. MARK ZUCKERBERG

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, wearing a dark blue suit and light blue tie, laughs as he stands in front of a pair of microphones.
Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Older sister Randi is the former Director of Market Development for Facebook; she's now the CEO of Zuckerberg Media and working on "a tech-driven pop-up dining experience" for children. He also has two younger sisters, Donna and Arielle.

21. GRACE KELLY

Actress and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly had two older siblings, Margaret and John Jr., and a younger sister named Elizabeth. John Jr. was a four-time Olympic rower. He gave his bronze medal to Grace as a wedding present when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco.

22. MARTHA STEWART

Martha Stewart, wearing a tan collared shirt, stands in front of a textured background and smiles at the camera.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The second of six children, Martha brought several family members into her business. Her youngest sister, Laura, ran the day-to-day operations of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, while younger brother George, a contractor, helped remodel her home.

23. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE

Georgia was the second of seven children, three of whom were artists. Sisters Ida and Catherine sometimes exhibited works alongside their famous sister, but Georgia felt that neither of them lived up to their full potential. When Ida died in 1961 at the age of 71, Georgia told her family it was a wasted life.

24. JENNIFER LOPEZ

Actress and singer Jennifer Lopez wearing a black, ribbed turtleneck sweater and smiling.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

J. Lo has an older sister, Leslie, and a younger sister, Lynda, who is an award-winning journalist.

25. SUSAN B. ANTHONY

The women's rights leader was the second-oldest of seven children—and nearly all of them were also activists. Brothers Daniel and Merritt worked for the anti-slavery movement. Sister Mary Anthony was also a suffragist and women's rights pioneer.

9 Facial Reconstructions of Famous Historical Figures

A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Why look at a painting of a historical figure when you can come face to face with one? Forensic facial reconstruction using scans of skeletal remains allows researchers to create 3D models of the face through a combination of science, history, and artistic interpretation. The results may be somewhat subjective, but they’re fascinating anyway. Here are nine facial reconstructions of famous people.

1. Richard III

In 2012, King Richard III’s skeleton was found below a parking lot in Leicester, England, where in 1485 he was hurriedly buried after dying in battle. A reconstruction (above) shows a young man, only 32 years old, with a gentle, approachable face. It’s a far cry from the child-murdering villain portrayed by Shakespeare and other writers. One thing they said does seem accurate, however: The skeleton had a curved spine from scoliosis, suggesting that Richard’s humpback may have been real.

2. Bach

J.S. Bach’s bust has sat on innumerable pianos for centuries, but he only posed for one portrait in his lifetime. So this reconstruction of his face—which was taken from a bronze cast of his skull—offers an interesting glimpse into the man beneath the 18th century wig. You get the same thick neck, underbite, and stern brow you see in the painting, but the reconstruction’s friendly, confused stare lacks the soul of the real man … and his music, for that matter.

3. Shakespeare

Apparently, no one knows anything about Shakespeare for sure—his hair color, his sexual orientation, how he spelled his name, whether he liked his wife, etc. Some people aren’t even sure whether he wrote his plays or not. So this rendering, taken from a death mask found in Germany, is bound to be controversial. But if it is Shakespeare, it’s pretty intriguing. It shows a man who suffered from cancer and had a sad, soulful face.

4. Dante

Maybe it’s because The Divine Comedy dealt with the ugliness of sin that Dante Alighieri is usually depicted as unattractive, with a pointy chin, buggy eyes, and enormous hooked nose. But a reconstruction done from measurements of the skull taken in 1921—the only time the remains have been out of the crypt—reveals a much more attractive Dante. The face has a rounder chin, pleasant eyes, and smaller nose than previously thought. It’s a face with character.

5. King Henri IV

The mummified head of France’s King Henri IV was lost after the French Revolution until a few years ago, when it showed up in a tax collector’s attic. In his day, Henri was beloved by everyone except the Catholic fundamentalists who murdered him in 1610. The hard-living king looks a bit old for his 56 years, but there’s a twinkle in his eyes. What the model cannot show, however, was how much the king stank—apparently he smelled of ”garlic, feet and armpits.”

6. Cleopatra’s Sister

Cleopatra hated her half-sister Arsinoe IV so much she had her dragged out of the temple of Artemis and murdered. In 2013, researchers said they had discovered what may be Arisone’s body, based on the shape of the tomb, carbon dating, and other factors. The resulting facial reconstruction shows a petite teenager of European and African blood. And yeah, maybe this is closer to what Arsinoe would look like if she were trapped in The Sims, but since Cleopatra’s remains are long gone, this may be the closest we get to knowing what she looked like.

7. King Tut

King Tutankhamun, whose famous sarcophagus has traveled far more than the “boy king” did in his 19-year lifetime, had buckteeth, a receding chin, and a slim nose, according to 3D renderings of his mummy. His weird skull shape is just within range of normal and was probably genetic—his father, Akhenaten, had a similarly shaped head. Tut’s body also had a broken leg, indicating he may have died from falling off a horse or chariot.

8. Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus, who challenged the belief that the sun revolved around the earth, died in 1543 at age 70. When his body was found in 2006 in a Polish church and confirmed by matching DNA to strands of his hair left in a book, the Polish police used their forensic laboratory to make this portrait. They made sure to include Copernicus’s broken nose and the scar above his left eye. Who knew that the Father of Astronomy looked so much like the actor James Cromwell?

9. Santa Claus

The remains of St. Nicholas, i.e. Santa Claus, have been in a church in Bari, Italy, since they were stolen from Turkey in 1087. This reproduction, taken from measurements of his skull, reveal that St. Nicholas had a small body—he was only 5’6”—and a huge, masculine head, with a square jaw and strong muscles in the neck. He also had a broken nose, like someone had beaten him up. This is consistent with accounts of St. Nicholas from the time: It turns out that Santa Claus had quite a temper.

A version of this list was first published in 2013.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

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