1822, January: Italian Man’s Internal Heat

In January, 1822, an Italian doctor found himself confronted with a very odd illness indeed. Dr. Balbiani, whose account of the matter was later published in  the ? [?], took under his care a twenty-six year old peasant 'of good physique' who came down with an intermittent fever and gastric irritation on the first of the month... seven days later though, the peasant was started to feel an abnormal heat and burning from his mouth down to his abdomen akin to having hot coals surrounding his innards.

        The peasant's breath started to steam out of his mouth, and his breath was hot enough that at a distance of two feet a hand held in the course of his breath would feel an intorlerable burning sensation. The peasant began to drink cold water constantly, as this afforded a brief relief to the burning sensation... but he was drinking so much that he kept either vomiting up or passing through the food he was eating, which led to him also contantly eating because he never seemed to have enough.

        Dr. Balbinai was able to end the man's illness by prescribing cold baths; this reduced his overall feeling of hot temperature and cut back on the amount of water he was drinking, which in turn let him digest his food so he didn't eat as much... and either all of this ended the intense temperature his body was displaying, or it allowed the peasant to endure it until it vanished on its own.

Details, Details...

        The account given above comes from an 1828 article in the Italian journal Annali Universali di Medicina. The author of that article attributed the story to “Morelli. Lett. Med-fis. Annali. Vol. XLVIII.” I will try to find this source, and update when I do.

        This strange ailment has been associated with the topic of so-called 'Spontaneous Human Combustion' -- the proposed possibility of a human igniting from the inside of their bodies and burning to a cinder -- for the simple idea that maybe the Italian man's internal heat was a precursor to possibly combusting. This is all speculation, as there is no real way to prove a connection.

        This odd event is not the only like it, however, as another report was made of abnormal body heat a few years earlier; follow the 'see also' link below to read more.