Author’s startlingly accurate descriptions of illnesses may have assisted advances in medicine, curators say

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.

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