13 Nov: Hypnosis Goes Legit

In this episode we uncover the incredible story of Scottish surgeon James Braid, who entered the Manchester Athenaeum on 13th November, 1841 as a skeptic of what was then known as ‘mesmerism’, or ‘animal magnetism’ – and left as perhaps the most enthusiastic proponent in Britain of what he came to call ‘hypnosis’.

The performance he saw, however, was not especially scientific: it consisted of Swiss mesmerist Charles Lafontaine putting participants into a trance via a dubious magnetic field; and then shocking them with live batteries, burning them with candles, and making them breathe ammonia. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Braid invented, and then regretted, the term ‘hypnosis’; review the bookings policy of the Manchester Athenaeum; and consider if the sideshow origins of stage hypnotism hampered the widespread adoption of hypnotherapy for decades…  

Further Reading:

• ‘Mind Over Matter: The Fascinating Tale of How James Braid Discovered Hypnotism’ (Scottish Field, 2016): https://www.pressreader.com/uk/scottish-field/20161001/281573765123644

• ‘Mesmerising Science: The Franklin Commission and the Modern Clinical Trial’ (The Public Domain Review, 2018): https://publicdomainreview.org/essay/mesmerising-science-the-franklin-commission-and-the-modern-clinical-trial

• ‘Hypnosis in History’ (Hypnosis TV, 2011): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUzZOGTkOtM

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