Charles Dickens' contribution to medicine highlighted in London exhibition
Fat boy Joe, the messenger in The Pickwick Papers, is “always asleep... he goes on errands fast asleep, and snores as he waits at table”.
The chubby servant’s constant snoozing becomes a running joke in Dickens’ first novel, but the character also served as an unlikely inspiration for a breakthrough in sleep science.
After observing similar symptoms in an obese poker player who fell asleep holding a winning hand, in 1956 American doctors named “Pickwickian syndrome” – now known as obesity hypoventilation syndome – in which severe obesity causes breathing problems that lead to daytime... read more
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