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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY

JOHN ELLIOTSON

Physician and mesmerist. B. October 29, 1971, London; d. July29, 1868, London. Studied medicine at Edinburgh, Cambridge univerities, receiving M.D. degree from each; continued studies at St. Thomas Hospital, Guy's Hospital, London. Appointed professor of principles and practice of medicine, University of London, 1831; helped establish University College Hospital, where he lectured and served as physician, 1834-38. President, Medico-Chirurgical Society, London (1837); fellow, Royal Society, Royal College of Physicians; founder and president, Phrenological Society.

Elliotson, an authority on diseases of the heart, was one of the first British physicians to use the stethoscope, and was an early advocate of the advantages of clinical lecturing. His interest in phenomena of the nervous system led him to the study of mesmerism, or the use of so-called animal magnetism to produce a state of trance in a patient. As a follower of Franz Mesmer (q.v.), Elliotson believed that the trance state, in which a patient might be relieved of pain or even helped toward cure of a disease, was produced by a magnetic influence passing from practitioner to subject. In seances at his home he was credited with "miraculous" healing of epileptics and victims of other ills. Officials of London University of the University Hospital objected to his use of mesmerism, causing his resignation from both institutions in December 1838.

Elliotson continued in private practice, however, using orthodox methods of diagnosis and treatment unless patients expressed an interest in mesmeric healing. in 1843 he found The Zoist, a magazine devoted to expounding mesmerism, which he edited for several years, and in 1849 he established a mesmeric hospital in London. Elliotson's publlished reports on his use of mesmerism caused Dr. James Esdaile (q.v.), in India, to use the method successfully in producing anesthesia duriing surgery. At about the same time 9in the mid-1840s) Elliotson's magazine denounced Dr. James Braid (q.v.) Braid, a Scottish physician, acknowledged the medical usefuless of the trance state (he gave the name "hypnosis" to the method for inducing it), but he disagreed with the animal magnetism theory advanced by Elliotson to explain it.

Toward the end of his life Elliotson's power to mesmerize failed, but he remained convinced until his death that what he called mesmerism could be a useful medical tool. Elliotson's books include Lectures on Diseases of the Heart (1830); Principles and Practice of Medicine (1839); Human Physiology (1840); and Surgical Operations in the Mesmeric State Without Pain (1843).

Taken from Helene Pleasants (1964) Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology with Directory and Glossary 1946-1996 NY: Garrett Publications


 
 

 

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