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James Braid

James Braid (1795-1860) coined the term and invented the procedure known as hypnotism.

He was a surgeon, who was born in Scotland and educated at the University of Edinburgh. After practicing in Scotland for a short time, he moved to Manchester, England, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Braid became interested in mesmerism[?] in November 1841, when he observed demonstrations given by a traveling mesmerist named Charles Lafontaine[?] (1803-1892). Convinced that he had discovered the key to understanding these phenomena, Braid began giving lectures the following month.

In 1843 he published Neurypnology: or the Rationale of Nervous Sleep, his first and only book length exposition of his views. In this book he coined the words "hypnotism," "hypnotize[?]," and "hypnotist[?]," which are still in use. Braid thought of hypnotism as producing a "nervous sleep," which was different from ordinary sleep. The most efficent way to produce it was through visual fixation on a small bright object held eighteen inches above and in front of the eyes. Braid regarded the physiological condition underlying hypnotism to be the over-exercising of the eye muscles through the straining of attention.

He completely rejected Franz Mesmer's idea that a magnetic fluid was responsible for hypnotic phenomena because anyone could produce them in "himself by attending strictly to the simple rules" that he lay down.

Suggested Reading

Alan Gauld, A History of Hypnotism, (Cambridge University Press, 1992).

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