Charles Domery (c. 1778 – after 1800), later also known as Charles Domerz, was a Polish soldier who served in both the Prussian and French armies during the War of the First Coalition. He became widely known for his exceptionally large appetite, which astounded and shocked those around him. This article explores the extraordinary life of Charles Domery, his unusual eating habits, and the medical curiosity surrounding his insatiable hunger.
Military Service and Voracious Hunger
Charles Domery’s journey began when he joined the Prussian Army at the age of 13. However, he soon found the Prussian rations insufficient and defected to the French Army in search of better sustenance. During his service with the French Revolutionary Army, he displayed an insatiable hunger that led him to consume any available food. While stationed near Paris, Domery even ate 174 cats in a single year, and if other food was unavailable, he would consume up to 5 pounds of grass daily.
Capture and Imprisonment of Charles Domery
In February 1799, the British forces captured the French ship Hoche, and Domery, along with the crew, was interned in a prison camp in Liverpool. Despite being provided ten times the usual rations, Domery’s voracious appetite remained unsatisfied. He astonished his captors by eating the prison cat, numerous rats, and even the prison candles. A fascinating experiment conducted by Dr. J. Johnston and Dr. Thomas Cochrane explored Domery’s eating capacity, and he consumed an astonishing amount of raw meat, tallow candles, and porter without showing any signs of discomfort.
Appearance and Behavior
Despite his unusual eating habits, Domery was described as having a normal build, standing tall at 6 feet 3 inches. Doctors observed that he showed no signs of mental illness and appeared to be of normal intelligence. While he consumed vast amounts of food, he never vomited, except when fed large quantities of roasted or boiled meat.
Medical Explanation for Charles Domery’s Appetite
The exact cause of Charles Domery’s insatiable appetite remains a mystery. While there were other documented cases of similar behavior during that period, none were as extreme as Domery’s. Some speculate that he might have suffered from hyperthyroidism, while others believe damage to his amygdala or ventromedial nucleus could be responsible.
Later Life and Legacy of Charles Domery
Unfortunately, there is little information about what became of Domery after his internment. The case of Charles Domery resurfaced in public attention in 1852 when Charles Dickens mentioned him, comparing his remarkable dining habits to those of a performer on the stage of Drury Lane.