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December 4, 1937

Spontaneous Combustion: A Literary Curiosity

JAMA. 1937;109(23):1934. doi:10.1001/jama.1937.02780490072044

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Dr. Oliver was moved to write this pamphlet by the use which Dickens made of spontaneous combustion to remove a character in "Bleak House." Dr. Oliver has found similar records of spontaneous combustion in other early works of the nineteenth century. Apparently at that time the possibility of spontaneous combustion was accepted. He concludes that it was probably due to the fact that people drank much more pure spirits in those early days and that they came more frequently into contact with flames. Obviously a body thoroughly soaked with alcohol would burn much better than one which had not had the advantage of such inflammable material. The book is labeled "A Literary Curiosity"; it is!

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