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Tarrare (wikipedia.org)
311 points by aaaaaaaaaaab 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments



Sam O'nella has a great video on him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYHDj2sB-rc


"After being suspected of eating a toddler he was ejected from the hospital." The article is unclear on whether they found the missing tyke.


Aw, it was the 18th century: they lost kids all the time.


Redundant Array of Inexpensive Descendants


Redundant Array of Inexpensive Descendants

Here's my evolutionary "Just So Story" for why human kids like to wander away and put things into their mouths. Basically, they acted as food tasters for the group. Makes sense, since the group has invested in them the least, they know nothing important, and in a state of nature, they're likely to die anyways.


Having a kid back then was a huge investment, no? The mother is weaker for half a year, eats more and could die in childbirth


Having a kid back then was a huge investment, no?

Yes, but the same investment was made in every other member of the group as well. However, everyone who made it well past childhood had a lot more knowledge, food, and material invested in them.


While I chuckle reading your explanation I think you forgot to consider how much nursing is deeply ingrained in our nature by us being mammals.

> in a state of nature, they're likely to die anyways.

So while this part, where they would die if left alone, is certainly right, it would make the whole concept of us humans not laying eggs, putting some semen and mud on them and disappear into the wilderness an evolutional waste of time.

Plus, I have some acquaintances whom I suspect would very much prefer to go about their business that exact same way. So it's not a demand side problem either.


So while this part, where they would die if left alone, is certainly right

Where did I say that the babies would be left alone and abandoned? Apparently you are unaware that in human communities with low technology, infant mortality can be pretty high alarmingly. You're also apparently stating that parents looking after children is not a "state of nature." (Or you're ascribing that to me, which, given you're alone in this, indicates you need to work on reading comprehension.)


> make the whole concept of us humans not laying eggs, putting some semen and mud on them and disappear into the wilderness an evolutional waste of time.

> putting some semen and mud on them and disappear into the wilderness

what?


I suspect eating insects also provided meaningful additional nutrition for toddlers.


Not to mention developing the immune system.

They always go for the dirtiest thing in the room. Acquire and share.


Indeed! Insects actually provide a non-negligible food source for many people today. Example : Chapulines


More evidence the behavior is adaptive!


that would select against the kids most enthusiastic about putting unsafe food in their mouth


It would, however, select for the most attentive mothers. However, a kid discovering a heretofore unknown poisonous plant would be a benefit. So too, would a kid discovering a heretofore unknown edible thing.


We have a pretty good understanding of why kids put stuff in their mouths and it’s more about exploration and their mouths being more centre of their sensory experience at younger ages. But the following link explains it better than I could:

http://drgailgross.com/parenting-families/why-does-my-8-mont...

Anecdotally, my daughter didn’t have this behaviour. Even at a very young age she’d only ever put food stuff in her mouth. However I’ve seen so many other kids, children of friends and relatives, put random objects in their mouths to know that my daughter is the exception to the rule.


That explanation is a bit circular along the lines that kids like putting things in their mouths because they like putting things in their mouths. As to why we've evolved that way it's probably to build the immune system. It needs exposure to stuff in the environment to figure what to react to. The increase in asthma and allergies in the modern world is probably because kids don't get enough dirt exposure and then the immune system overacts later.


> That explanation is a bit circular along the lines that kids like putting things in their mouths because they like putting things in their mouths.

That's not what the article says at all. It says most of the babies sensory experiences are oral because they lack mobility to explore things with other tactile senses. Granted the article doesn't example this specifically but a lot of sensory input will be suckling (dummies, mother's nipple / bottle's teat, their own digits, etc).

By the time they're a bit more mobile and can open their hand to grasp objects (remember the ability for a baby to even open their hand takes a few weeks to learn) happens, they've often already gotten into the habit of exploring the world via their mouths.

It doesn't say it in that article I linked to, but I do vaguely recall reading elsewhere that because babies develop tactile senses on their hands later than the senses in their mouth, babies will often have more nerve endings in their mouth. However I cannot find a source for that so this might be a detail I'm miss-remembering.


We have a pretty good understanding of why kids put stuff in their mouths and it’s more about exploration and their mouths being more centre of their sensory experience at younger ages.

Cool. So long as you're not conflating evolutionary pressures with internal mental states, drives, and desires. Doing so would mean you're dipping into Lamarckianism.


I don't understand why you posted that because thus far you're the only person who's suggested it's an evolutionary trait.


>Even at a very young age she’d only ever put food stuff in her mouth.

Apparently, I was that was as a baby as well. I handled everything, but only food went into my mouth.


But kids don't like bitter things (like cabbage), to stop them eating potentially poisonous things, that's what I understood anyway.

Plus try and get a 2 year old to try new things.

Is this something you've observed on teething children? They tend to chew things to ease the pain.


Damn fine hypothesis. Juvenile mortality is naturally really high from the get-go [not just for humans, but practically all life forms] -- why not have them engage in the most high-risk experiments? I think that's brilliant.


They couldn't find the golden fork either.


I instantly thought of ShoeNice ..that guy with a YouTube channel that eats random stuff

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCyuCA6viLm6zsL6LNq67Tjg

Be warned, though.. it can be a little disturbing


He's honestly quite sad now. I'm pretty sure all the terrible shit he's eaten and drank over the course of the years have rotted his brain.


Glad someone else thought of this guy. A modern day Tarrare, I suppose.


Oh my... those are some strange videos.


You should look up the LA beast.


competitive eaters have nothing on shoe


"The fork was never found."


Was just going to note that it's a very poetic ending indeed.

On a more serious note, here is a similar case I found on the talk page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Domery


And they're contemporaries.


One of the best endings to a story, ever!


All that and no mention of food poisoning despite eating offal from the gutters and dung heaps. I wonder if his super-charged metabolism made for a super-charged immune system or it's something we can all get used to?


I was wondering about that too.

Seems he still vomited indigestible things (when they gave him the live cat). The autopsy revealed an inner body full of ulcers and pus. Maybe his metabolism was so high, he was burning a lot of it out.


Yes it did mention he had a higher than normal body heat, maybe he had a constant mild fever burning the bugs to death.


X-Man : Origin


A real life shonen manga protagonist.


Some friends of mine [0] actually made a puppet opera based on this chap - and a blast it was too.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/stage/video/2017/jan/26/watch-a-...


Sounds like he had an extremely high resting metabolic rate. Any similar modern medical examples?


I'm not sure he was absorbing so many calories from those meals. It sounds more like he had an extremely overactive digestive tract and just couldn't keep anything inside long enough to digest. Think of it more as a permanent case of explosive diarrhea.

His use as a courier suggests that material was going through his digestive tract mostly intact.


"Hyperthyroidism can induce an extreme appetite, rapid weight loss, profuse sweating, heat intolerance, and fine hair. Bondeson (2006) speculates that Tarrare had a damaged amygdala; it is known that injuries to the amygdala in animals can induce polyphagia."



very interesting medical case history. i assume that the guy had a metabolic disorder of some kind, although a unique gut microbiome might have been at play too.


Or tapeworms, although that would be pretty obvious in his stool, even in the 19th century.


What a rollercoaster. Can't believe what I just read.


I wonder how much of this was borderline normal at the time


I thoroughly encourage everyone to learn more about Tarrare on the This Paranormal Life podcast!

https://soundcloud.com/thisparanormallife/044-tarrare-the-ma...


Just a theory (not a doctor), a damaged pancreas could cause insufficient insulin, which would cause food energy not to be absorbed (although I don’t think it explains the other symptoms)


> At the autopsy, Tarrare's gullet was found to be abnormally wide and when his jaws were opened, surgeons could see down a broad canal into the stomach. His body was found to be filled with pus, his liver and gallbladder were abnormally large, and his stomach was enormous, covered in ulcers and filling most of his abdominal cavity.


Seems he had trouble absorbing calories from what he ate somehow.


That was my first thought, but this line:

>His body was hot to the touch and he sweated heavily, he constantly had foul body odour [...]

suggests an fantastically high baseline metabolism.


Makes me think of DNP, a substance which acts to dissipate the protein gradient in our mitochondria, wasting the energy that the mitochondrion would otherwise use to make ATP. The wasted energy is turned into heat, giving its users an elevated body temperature and characteristic sweating. It'd be the perfect dieting aid were it not so toxic.

There are proteins in the human body having the same effect, performing some minor functions. Maybe he had a mutation making those proteins very prevalent, essentially making his metabolism very wasteful. Although I don't know if such a sustained fever wouldn't be deadly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2,4-Dinitrophenol https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncoupling_protein


DNP has a particularly vile reputation in the fitness community, yet many still use it.


Whenever I read articles about things that happened hundreds of years ago, I always think that most of it was made up along the way, so I take it with a boulder of salt.

Does anyone know how accurate these sorts of records are?


This isn't something that got passed down like a children's game of "telephone"; the outlandish details are present in the original contemporaneous accounts and we have copies of them (digitized even! [1]). So, if it was made up, it was at least made up at the time.

However, the person making the claim is Pierre-François Percy [2], chief surgeon of Napoleon's Grande Armée and a member of the Académie des sciences and, later, honorary member of the Académie Royale de Médecine. Inventing a case like this would be wildly out of character.

Reflexively dismissing every story from the past is just as fallacious as believing every detail.

[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=4e0EAAAAQAAJ [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Fran%C3%A7ois_Percy


This thing reads more like a campfire story. I also wonder how much of this is real and how much is the inevitable embellishment added over the past more than 2 centuries.

The funny explanation. [0] [1]

[0] https://xkcd.com/1235/

[1] https://imgur.com/gallery/akeVeiq


Exactly, most of these claims read like fanciful fabrications of people wanting to tell a good story.

Eating his body weight in a day? That's pretty outlandish and easily debunked.


>Eating his body weight in a day? That's pretty outlandish and easily debunked.

no. I don't understand what you're basing your claim on. As far as i see it is easily possible. Even with anatomically normal gut some stuff can make from mouth to the other end in as short as 30 minutes. So the bandwidth is there (say it takes 1 hour to make through the 7m length of the gut pipe which say of 4 square centimeter section - that is 2.8 liter/hour speed) . The story of that guy says that he had severe diarrhea and overall really suggests that he had severe gut bacterial issues - that is one of the situations when stuff makes it very quickly through the gut.

He is described as of a small weight despite significant food intake - that again matches the situation of the food quickly passing through instead of thorough digestion. He is described as constantly scavenging and eating - say 15 hours a day 4 kg/hour (in the ballpark of the above mentioned 2.8l/hour) gives you 60kg. 4kg/hour quickly moving non-stop though the gut does sound like a severe diarrhea.


I don't think I've ever heard bandwidth used in this context.


Well, there's one way to fail a Turing Test :).


This particular claim could be exaggerated, but it looks like most of the story is true: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/15afe2/are_t...


True in the sense that contemporaries reported witnessing such things, but who knows if what they reported was accurate.


Turns out there's an entire academic field dedicated to this question! And a word for the concept: historiography! And over centuries, tens of thousands of academic historians have worked out any number of methods for assessing this sort of thing... there's even a history of historiography on the Wikipedia page about it! But you know, who knows if anything reported there is accurate?


If they're consistent, you'd have to explain how can multiple actors imagine a similar story (assuming those witnesses didn't interact). You can use probabilistic reasoning to determine whether a large portion of the story is close to reality.


Right, just like with bigfoot (?)


I feel like there is a difference between "we saw something between the trees! It must have been the bigfoot!" and "we gave this guy a cat and he ate it whole in front of us".


The French are known for their...unique appetites https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Lotito


Also my first thought. For others:

> His performances involved the consumption of metal, glass, rubber and other materials. He disassembled, cut up, and consumed bicycles, shopping carts, televisions, and a Cessna 150,among other items. The Cessna 150 took roughly two years to be "eaten", from 1978 to 1980. He began eating unusual material as a teenager, at around 16 years of age,[4] and performed publicly beginning in 1966.[citation needed] Lotito had an eating disorder known as pica. Doctors determined that Lotito also had a thick lining in his stomach and intestines which allowed his consumption of sharp metal without suffering injury

Indoor wonder if it's a coincidence both these guys were French....


good luck falling asleep tonight everyone




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