Archive | 6:59 pm

medical masterminds: dickens and beethoven

29 Nov

Charles Dickens observed obesity hypoventilation syndrome in the 1830s…only over a hundred years before we knew anything about sleep disorders:

…and on the box sat a fat and red faced boy, in a state of somnolency…”Joe! Joe!”  He taps on his head with a stick and the fat boy, with some difficulty, roused from his lethargy.  “Come hand out the eatables.”  There was something in the sound of the last word which roused the unctuous boy.  He jumped up and the leaden eyes, which twinkled behind his mountainous cheeks, leered horribly upon the food.  (Pickwick Papers, 1836)

Today we learned about Beethoven’s representation of his own GI disorders in his Second Symphony, his mitral stenosis in his Ninth.  If his deafness was caused by conduction problems, he wouldn’t need a stethoscope to interpret the sounds of his own body!

These little tidbits brought to you by faculty members at Penn and Jefferson.  It’s a proud day to be an English and Music double-major.