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Osler and Sleep Apnea

W. Stuart Tucker Jr, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1984;144(5):1085. doi:10.1001/archinte.1984.00350170255043.
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To the Editor.  —In addition to Kryger's1 article, other important references in the history of sleep apnea and the Pickwickian syndrome can be found in the writings of William Osler.2 In the third edition of his medical textbook he discussed obesity: "Corpulence, an excessive development of the bodily fat—an 'oily dropsy,' in the words of Lord Byron—is a condition for which the physician is frequently consulted...." Although I have not been able to find this quotation from the Byron canon,3 I have wondered whether Dickens might have applied this same connotation of the word dropsy when he coined the epithet "young dropsy" for Joe, the fat boy of The Pickwick Papers. The term oily dropsy was retained in each subsequent edition of the book.4Osler and subsequent editors alluded to The Pickwick Papers in the sixth5 and all later editions4 of the text: "An


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