Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT; VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, CT
In 1836 Charles Dickens published the first installment of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. In this novel he introduces the reader to a character, Joe, the Fat Boy who is obese, sleepy, difficult to arouse, snores, and has peripheral edema. This description so intrigued the medical field that many hypotheses about the symptoms were examined, but it was not until 120 years after the novel was published that physicians started to interrelate these features and a new field of medicine emerged. Although he is best known for this description, Dickens impacted medicine and medical care in many ways. Besides his brilliant clinical descriptions (many of which were unrecognized in his day) and his activities as a social reformer, he was instrumental in facilitating the development of homeless shelters for women, the first pediatric hospital in the United Kingdom, and the development of orthopedics.
Kryger M. Charles Dickens: impact on medicine and society. J Clin Sleep Med 2012;8(3):333-338.