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John Elliotson
(1791 - 1868)

picture of John Elliotson
Mesmerist physician Professor John Elliotson was the author of Surgical Operations in the Mesmeric State without Pain (1843). In 1831, Elliotson had been elected "professor of the principles and practice of physic" at London University. In 1834, he became physician to University College hospital.

Professor Elliotson's application of "animal magnestism" scandalised the hospital medical committee. Rather than abandon his mesmerist techniques as instructed, however, he resigned his offices to pursue his mesmerist practice. Elliotson edited a mesmerist magazine, The Zoist. In 1849, he founded a mesmeric hospital. Elliotson was also founding member of the Phrenological Society (1838).

When the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal [quoted in the British Medical Surgical Journal (1846)35:542] asserted that, compared to ether, mesmerism could perform "a thousand times greater wonders, and without any of the dangers", Elliotson heartily agreed. Mesmerism was undoubtedly useful in a minority of cases for minor surgery and perhaps the presence of a charismatic physician. Yet as the century wore on, most patients - and their surgeons - preferred to take their chances with anaesthetics rather than any form of hypnosis.


James Braid
Anton Mesmer
Utopian Surgery
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics