Antoine Despine: Magnetizer and Pioneer in the Contemporary Treatment of Dissociative Disorders

  • Catherine G. Fine


Animal magnetism, initially described in his Dissertatio physico-medica de planetarum influxu (1766) by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), has had since its inception a fluctuating, but recurring impact on the practices of medicine and psychology. Animal magnetism flourished after 1790 under the promotional influence ofthe Marquis de Puysegur (1751-1825); he was fascinated by the unusual state of consciousness in which patients were very suggestible, able to diagnose their own illnesses, and prescribe effective remedies for their perceived conditions. Puysegur and his contemporaries such as Petetin (1785) noted the similarity between somnambulism in its natural state and magnetic sleep. The terms magnetic somnambulism or artificial somnambulism— ultimately relabeled hypnosis by James Braid (1795-1860)—evolved to capture the array of phenomena, curative, curious and sought, that would help explicate ailments that defied the conventional medicine of the day. Contemporary therapists would consider these conditions the venue of psychosomatic medicine. It is imbued with this spirit of exploration, inquisitiveness and pride that Antoine Despine (1777–1852), a provincial doctor, practiced medicine and treated other physicians’ treatment failures with cutting edge interventions.


Magnetic Cure Dissociative Identity Disorder Dissociative Disorder Contemporary Therapist Experimental Hypnosis 
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© Joanne M. McKeown and Catherine G. Fine 2008

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  • Catherine G. Fine

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