London, Nov 5 : Obituaries from the 18th Century sparked 'modern celebrity celebrity', researchers from Warwick University have claimed.
They say that public fascination with celebrity figures can be traced back to the rise of newspapers and magazines in the 18th Century and their popular obituaries section.
Obituaries gave an account of the lives of high profile personalities, who became the objects of scandal and public fascination, or the first "celebrities".
It is widely believed that the 'modern celebrity' was born with the Romantic movement of the early 19th century, but now researchers have challenged that notion, insisting the cult of the celebrity began a century earlier.
"Celebrity - short-lived fame - became a feature of British society, and the untimely or dramatic death began to create as well as test this new kind of fame," the Telegraph quoted Dr Elizabeth Barry, from the university's Engish department, who authored the paper, as saying.
"The obituary plays a key role in this process and represents an important mechanism for introducing modern notions of fame and celebrity into British society," she added.
Barry identifies 'The Gentleman's Magazine' in 1789, which provided an insight into the life of Isaac Tarrat, a man who impersonated a doctor and told people their fortunes - wearing a fur cap and a worn damask nightgown.
According to Barry, Tarrat's death notice was read widely.
Barry added that people from all walks of life could now become famous for being eccentric, rather than for historically momentous achievements.
"This period also witnessed a change in attitude towards fame that recognised the significance in a newly commercial environment of popular tastes and appetite," she said.
The findings are published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies.