John Elliotson 1791 - 1868
March 14, 2009
John Elliotson 1791 - 1868 was an English physician, acupuncturist, phrenologist and mesmerist. ‘… an English physician… He studied medicine first at the University of Edinburgh (1805–1810)… and then at Jesus College, Cambridge (1810–1821) — in both of which institutions he took the degree of M.D… and subsequently in London at St Thomas’ and Guy’s hospitals. In 1831 he was elected professor of the principles and practice of physic in London University (now University College London), and in 1834 he became physician to University College Hospital… From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Elliotson’
Wendy Moore, *The Mesmerist: *The Society Doctor Who Held Victorian London Spellbound, (Hachette UK, 27 Apr 2017).
John Elliotson published an article on acupuncture in the first edition of The Lancet in 1823. Elliotson went on to found the London Mesmeric Infirmary, on Weymouth Street. ‘… _The Lancet ran a series of trials of Elliotson’s mesmeric experiments at Wakley’s home in Bedford Square during the summer of 1838, with a jury of witnesses drawn from the medical establishment. The results of these trials not only discredited Elliotson but helped to clarify the authority and status of both Wakley and The Lancet. Elliotson continued the practice of mesmerism, holding mesmeric séances in his home and editing a magazine, The Zoist, devoted to the subject. In 1849 he founded a mesmeric hospital… From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Elliotson’_
John Elliotson was a friend of James John Garth Wilkinson, and John Elliotson was central to the social set which included Charles Babbage, Thomas Carlyle, publisher John Chapman, Moncure Daniel Conway, Charles Darwin and his brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin, Charles Dickens, George Everest and his brother, homeopath Thomas Roupell Everest, Robert Everest (?brother of George Everest and Thomas Roupell Everest, a geographer who lived in India), Thomas Henry Huxley, Charles Lyell, and Harriet Martineau.
John Elliotson lectured widely on Mesmerism.
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Elliotson John Elliotson studied medicine first at the University of Edinburgh (1805-1810), where he was influenced by Thomas Brown, who held the chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh from 1808 to 1820, and then at Jesus College, Cambridge (1810-1821) - in both of which institutions he took the degree of M.D. - and subsequently in London at St Thomas’ and Guy’s hospitals.
In 1831 he was elected Professor of the Principles and Practice of Physic in London University (now University College London), and in 1834 he became Physician to University College Hospital.
He was a student of phrenology and mesmerism… Elliotson hoped his development of mesmerism would lead to new therapeutic applications for medical science (and so also help score ‘social reform’ points against UCL’s ‘Tory’ Rival, Kings). Elliotson tended to use working class, female subjects for mesmeric research and demonstration, often from Irish immigrant communities. This was not unusual, but was perhaps his downfall. Because the effects of mesmerism took place in the subjects mind, the scientific community had to believe their testimony.
Elliotson tried using middle-class peers as subjects, but felt they brought with them an undesirable obtrusion of their own sense of identity and their expectations of the experiment would led them to censor their reports.
In comparison, Elliotson, rather patronisingly to contemporary eyes, felt the poorer subjects were closer to the mechanical instruments or animals of physical or physiological experimental traditions. He famously claimed he could play the brain of his subjects as he would a piano. The same prejudices, however, made it easier to discount his work, especially as Elliotson’s subjects proved to be slightly less passive than he had hoped.
His interest in mesmerism eventually brought him into collision with the medical committee of the hospital, a circumstance which led him, in December 1838, to resign the offices held by him there and at the university… this was largely down to the actions of The Lancet which at the time was relatively new and, with the medical profession itself, seeking to prove its authority. Its founder, Thomas Wakley initially supported Elliotson but quickly changed his mind, considering the mesmeric subjects and experiments rather too ‘unruly’ for his taste.
The Lancet ran a series of trials of Elliotson’s mesmeric experiments at Thomas Wakley’s home in Bedford Square during the summer of 1838, with a jury of witnesses drawn from the medical establishment. The results of these trials not only discredited Elliotson but helped clarify the authority and status of both Thomas Wakley and The Lancet.
Elliotson continued the practice of mesmerism, holding mesmeric séances in his home and editing a magazine, The Zoist, devoted to the subject. In 1849 he founded a mesmeric hospital. He died in London on the 29th of July 1868.
Elliotson was one of the first teachers in London to appreciate the value of clinical lecturing, and one of the earliest among British physicians to advocate the employment of the stethoscope… He was the author of numerous papers in the Transactions of the Medico-Chirurgical Society, of which he was at one time president; and he was also a fellow both of the Royal College of Physicians and Royal Society, and founder and president of the Phrenological Society.