Scottish Contributions to the Development of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine

  • M. R. Bond


Scots have made very significant contributions to both the understanding and practice of hypnosis and psychosomatic medicine.

Most believe that the development of animal magnetism by the Austrian, Franz Mesmer in the 18th century, represented the beginning of interest in trance states, but his work was influenced by earlier thoughts of a Scot, William Maxwell, author of ‘De Medicina Magnetica’.

Perhaps the most well known of all Scots involved in the development of hypnosis was James Braid, a Scottish Surgeon working in Manchester. Though a great sceptic of Mesmerism at first, he changed his attitude completely in 1841 after attending a demonstration by ‘a magnetiser’ Monsieur Lafontaine. It was Braid who concluded that the trance state was not due to magnetic fluids but to heightened suggestibility on the part of the subject and introduced the term ‘neurohypnotism’ to describe the state or condition of nervous sleep that this represented. A year later he shortened this term to hypnotism’. Scots, especially James Esdaile, were involved in the development of clinical uses of hypnosis, especially in surgery, throughout the remainder of the 19th century.

The place of hypnosis in medicine in the 20th century has been no less ambiguous than in the previous one, but during the 1914–18 war another Scot, McDougall, demonstrated that it could make a positive contribution in the treatment of ‘shell-shock’ and began a further revival of the medical use of hypnosis which has persisted since that time.

Scots have been no less involved in the development of psychosomatic medicine than of hypnosis and perhaps the most well known contribution of all was that made by Dr. John Halliday still living in Glasgow, who, as a Public Health Officer in the city, threw new light on psychosomatic medicine when he published a book entitled ‘Psychosocial Medicine’ in 1943. In it he drew attention to the role of social factors in the development and maintenance of illness. His work and that of other Scots in particular, Kissen and Aitken, will be discussed in the final section of this paper.*


Magnetic Fluid Psychosomatic Medicine Public Health Officer Psychosocial Medicine Trance State 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. R. Bond
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GlasgowGlasgowScotland

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