Famous Middle Children in History
There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years around the connection between birth order and success. Most studies have come to similar conclusions: Those born first are generally most likely to be successful in life. In fact, a 2014 article by Scientific American cited statistics from a recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom that oldest children are 16 percent more likely to excel academically than their younger siblings.
Well, history has a different story to tell. Time and time again, plenty of archetypally “introverted” middle children have changed the world. Here’s a look at some of the most famous middles on record:
- Napoleon: Although he grew up to build a mighty empire, Napoleon Bonaparte started out as a true middle child, with a whopping four brothers and three sisters. Born in Corsica, Napoleon journeyed to France at the age of nine for schooling. It’s believed that he never returned to Corsica and his roots willingly (although one he was forced to land on the island during a storm). He did, however, make three of his brothers kings.
- Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln had an older sister and younger brother by his birth parents, neither of whom lived to see him become president. His younger brother, Thomas Lincoln, Jr., died in infancy. Following the death of his mother due to milk sickness, he was raised by his older sister Sarah until their father remarried. Sarah herself later married and died in childbirth at the age of 21.
- Louis Pasteur: Pasteur was the third out of five children in birth order, although his oldest sibling died in infancy. Interestingly, Pasteur was not an outstanding student as a child and instead showed aptitude for drawing. His father, however, did not wish to see his son become an artist and instead pushed him to study science.
- Ernest Hemingway: A middle child, Hemingway actually had five siblings: four sisters and a brother. His father was a country physician, who taught him about hunting, fishing, and the outdoors, while his mother was a religious woman. Unfortunately, his father committed suicide, leaving the boy with an emotional scar. Hemingway himself would also commit suicide at 61.
- John F. Kennedy: Our 35th president was born into a big Catholic family, one of nine children and the second son to be born. His elder brother, Joseph, Jr., was killed in World War II. His younger brother Robert (Bobby), also a middle child, would likewise go on to have a major impact on U.S. politics as an attorney general, senator and presidential candidate. Sadly, both brothers were assassinated, JFK while still in office.
- Bill Gates: Gates is a true middle child with two sisters: one older and one younger. Despite an upbringing of conflict with his parents, he went on to drop out of Harvard and co-found his own company in 1975, Microsoft, which has been successful to say the least. Since then, Bill gates has given over $28 billion to charity and has been listed as number one on the Forbes list of “World’s Richest People” from 1995 to 2008.
So, listen up, middle children: It’s clear that success is not limited to the firstborn of the family. In fact, some of the strengths derived from being a middle child enabled leaders like Napoleon, Lincoln, and JFK to achieve the great things they did.