Tag Archives: animal magnetism

New JHBS: Psychiatry & Religion, Magnétisme, & More

The Fall 2015 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore psychiatry and religion in the mid-twentieth century, continuities from magnétisme in late-nineteenth century discourse on hypnotism, and more. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“THE POLITICS OF PSYCHIATRY AND THE VICISSITUDES OF FAITH CIRCA 1950: KARL STERN’S PSYCHIATRIC NOVEL,” by Daniel Burston. The abstract reads,

Karl Stern, MD (1906–1975) was the author of The Pillar of Fire (1951) and three nonfiction books on psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and religion. His novel, Through Dooms of Love (1960), written with the assistance of his friend and admirer Graham Greene, covers a number of topics that were to psychiatric theory, treatment, and research at mid-century, and reflects several features of his own personal and professional vicissitudes.

“IMPERCEPTIBLE SIGNS: REMNANTS OF MAGNÉTISME IN SCIENTIFIC DISCOURSES ON HYPNOTISM IN LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRANCE,” by KIM M. HAJEK. The abstract reads,

In 1880s France, hypnotism enjoyed unique medico-scientific legitimacy. This was in striking contrast to preceding decades when its precursor, magnétisme animal, was rejected by the medical/academic establishment as a disreputable, supernaturally tinged practice. Did the legitimation of hypnotism result from researchers repudiating any reference to the wondrous? Or did strands of magnetic thinking persist? This article interrogates the relations among hypnotism, magnétisme, and the domain of the wondrous through close analysis of scientific texts on hypnotism. In question is the notion that somnambulist subjects possessed hyperacute senses, enabling them to perceive usually imperceptible signs, and thus inadvertently to denature researchers’ experiments (a phenomenon known as unconscious suggestion). The article explores researchers’ uncritical and unanimous acceptance of these ideas, arguing that they originate in a holdover from magnétisme. This complicates our understanding of the continuities and discontinuities between science and a precursor “pseudo-science,” and, more narrowly, of the notorious Salpêtrière-Nancy “battle” over hypnotism.

“KNOWLEDGE ECOLOGIES, “SUPPLE” OBJECTS, AND DIFFERENT PRIORITIES ACROSS WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES PROGRAMS AND DEPARTMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970–2010,” by Christine Virginia Wood. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Psychiatry & Religion, Magnétisme, & More

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August HoP: Sex, Mesmerism, Addiction, & More

The August 2012 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue is a Special Section: Beyond Kinsey, Sex and American Psychology, which examines some of the psychological research funded by the Committee for Research in Problems of Sex. Stay tuned to AHP later in the week for a special interview with Peter Hegarty, Michael Pettit, and David Serlin, the authors whose articles make up this section.

In addition to the Special Section: Beyond Kinsey, Sex and American Psychology, the issue includes article that address the history of addiction interventions, the roots of psychology in Italy, behavior analysis in Brazil and its pedagogical connections, Lurena Brackett and mesmerism in the nineteenth century United States, and Jean Piaget’s psychological factory. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Special Section: Beyond Kinsey, Sex and American Psychology.

“Beyond Kinsey: The committee for research on problems of sex and American psychology,” by Peter Hegarty. The abstract reads,

This introduction to the Special Section of History of Psychology argues for greater attention to psychological research on sex in the decades before the publication of the Kinsey volumes. Drawing on scholarship by Adele Clarke, Donna Haraway and Wade Pickren, this introduction argues for the centrality of the psychological research projects funded by the Committee for Research on Problems of Sex (CRPS), chaired by psychologist Robert Yerkes after 1921. The three individual papers all speak to opposition to the functionalist approach to sex often attributed to Yerkes’ CRPS.

“Getting miles away from Terman: Did the CRPS fund Catharine Cox Miles’s unsilenced psychology of sex?” by Peter  Hegarty. The abstract reads, Continue reading August HoP: Sex, Mesmerism, Addiction, & More

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Royal Commission Report on Animal Magnetism

A translation of the 18th century French Royal Commission Report on animal magnetism commissioned by King Louis XVI has been posted on the Skeptic‘s website. This investigation into the veracity of animal magnetism, or mesmerism, was undertaken by group of individuals that included Antoine Lavoisier, American Benjamin Franklin, and a number of other prominent intellectuals. The piece is introduced by Skeptic founder Michael Shermer who provides the following description of mesmerism:

The German physician Franz Anton Mesmer was the “discoverer” of animal magnetism, and he has ever since been remembered whenever we are “mesmerized” by something that seems to draw us to it like a magnet. The analogy is appropriate, for Mesmer reasoned that just as an invisible force of gravity binds the planets together, and an invisible force of electricity flows through various substances, and an invisible force of magnetism draws iron shavings to a loadstone, so an invisible force — animal magnetism — flows through living beings.

The Commission’s report, as well as Shermer’s introduction to it, can both be read here.

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“The Astrological Roots of Mesmerism”

In a forthcoming article in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences historian of science Simon Schaffer (left) examines the influence of astrology on Franz Anton Mesmer’s development of mesmerism.

The abstract to Schaffer’s article, “The astrological roots of Mesmerism,” reads:

Franz Anton Mesmer’s 1766 thesis on the influence of the planets on the human body, in which he first publicly presented his account of the harmonic forces at work in the microcosm, was substantially copied from the London physician Richard Mead’s early eighteenth century tract on solar and lunar effects on the body. The relation between the two texts poses intriguing problems for the historiography of medical astrology: Mesmer’s use of Mead has been taken as a sign of the Vienna physician’s enlightened modernity while Mead’s use of astro-meteorology has been seen as evidence of the survival of antiquated astral medicine in the eighteenth century. Two aspects of this problem are discussed. First, French critics of mesmerism in the 1780s found precedents for animal magnetism in the work of Paracelsus, Fludd and other early modern writers; in so doing, they began to develop a sophisticated history for astrology and astro-meteorology. Second, the close relations between astro-meteorology and Mead’s project illustrate how the environmental medical programmes emerged. The making of a history for astrology accompanied the construction of various models of the relation between occult knowledge and its contexts in the enlightenment.

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