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April 29, 1933


Author Affiliations

Los Angeles.

JAMA. 1933;100(17):1359. doi:10.1001/jama.1933.02740170057029

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To the Editor:  —The portrayal of the symptoms of a disease in a fictional character is always interesting reading. This is particularly true if the novel appeared before the malady was studied systematically or recorded authoritatively in the medical literature. An example of this kind occurs in Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers. In a humorous character sketch, Dickens portrayed the symptoms of narcolepsy forty years before the publication of its first description as a clinical entity.This disease, which physicians find fascinating because of its rarity and extraordinary manifestations, was described in 1877 by Westphal. He has properly received the credit attached to priority, although it was not until three years later that Gélineau first applied the term narcolepsy as a name for brief and sudden attacks of irresistible sleep. One of his patients had some two hundred attacks a day, each lasting from one to five minutes. Sir William Gowers

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