My research, undertaken in the domain of History and Philosophy of Science, was overseen by two experienced (Ph.D.) supervisors. These supervisors also made sure that my dissertation and its contents met all of the scholarly/academic requirements of the University of New South Wales. The dissertation, James Braid: Surgeon, Gentleman Scientist, and Hypnotist, was externally examined by two eminent U.S. scholars, who accepted the dissertation without corrections.
An electronic copy of this dissertation has been lodged in UNSWorks, the online institutional repository of University of New South Wales’ Library, and its contents are immediately and freely available to all at:
James Braid: Surgeon, Gentleman Scientist, and Hypnotist
This dissertation examines the critical period and the circumstances that led Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795-1860) to produce his classic work on hypnotism, Neurypnology (1843).
The full story of these fateful events, from his encounter with the Swiss magnetic demonstrator, Charles Lafontaine in November 1841, to his conversazione at the time of the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s Manchester meeting in June 1842, is told here for the first time.
It is based on the accumulated evidence within Braid’s own publications (his contributions to journals and magazines, letters, press releases, advertisements, pamphlets, and books), and a wide range of the contemporaneous literature (the majority of which has, to date, remained unknown, unidentified and unexamined) including accurate, stenographic transcriptions of Braid’s public lectures, eyewitness reports of his technical demonstrations and experiments.
These sources record James Braid’s incremental development of his hypnotic theories and practices, how these practices were an extension of his surgical knowledge, how he dealt with positive and negative ‘feed-back’, how he learned from his own observations and experience, and how he performed his boundary work, defending his enterprise from the territorial claims of medical, religious, philosophical, metaphysical, mesmeric, and magnetic rivals.
An extended and ‘in depth’ narrative of these events is essential to a correct representation of the nature and character of Neurypnology, and the history of hypnotism since its publication.
By delivering such a narrative, the dissertation not only contributes to the rectification of the distortions (and the filling of substantial gaps) in the historical record on Braid, it also identifies and clarifies a number of misrepresentations.
The consequent exhumation of a more authentic version of Braid’s hypnotic practice and treatment rationale, further, holds some hope for improvement in modern practice, given the confusions that have persisted since Braid’s time.
This dissertation concludes that without the innovative, persistent and surgically trained Braid, the practice of hypnotism as a complex of incremental strategic interventions may not have come into being.