A Hundred Years of Psychology, 1833-1933

By J. C. Flugel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
HYPNOTISM AND ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY--ELLIOTSON, ESDAILE, BRAID

TURNING now to the category of abnormal psychology, we find that almost the sole developments of real importance in the first of our three periods are concerned with hypnotism, or mesmerism as it was still called at the beginning of this period. It will be remembered that, when the period opened, mesmerism had fallen into utter discredit in the learned world. At the end of the period it had been rehabilitated and put upon a sound basis; indeed in this particular field the period is one of rapid progress, due largely to the work of a few enthusiasts, who willingly jeopardized their scientific reputations in the search for knowledge and the attempt to ease the sufferings of their fellow men. Three names stand out in this connection above all others: John Elliotson, James Esdaile and James Braid.

Elliotson, the first of these, was a man of unusual ability and originality, a rare combination of scientist, philanthropist and rebel, with great hopes of the future, great receptiveness towards all things new and unexplored, and an almost equally great contempt for the errors and prejudices of the past. He was the first physician to use the stethoscope in England and to introduce many forms of treatment which later on were generally adopted. In 1831 he was made Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the newly founded ( 1828) University College of London. With Elliotson's enthusiastic support University College Hospital was opened in 1834, the first

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