Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Braid, James

BRAID, JAMES (1795?–1860), writer on hypnotism, was the son of a landed proprietor of Fifeshire. He was born at Rylaw House in that county about 1795. After receiving his education at the university of Edinburgh, he was apprenticed to Dr. Anderson of Leith and his son, Dr. Charles Anderson. On obtaining the diploma of M.R.C.S.E. he accepted an engagement as surgeon to the miners employed at the Earl of Hopetoun's works in Lanarkshire, and subsequently practised with Dr. Maxwell at Dumfries. While resident there he was called to render assistance to a Mr. Petty of Manchester, who had been injured in a stage-coach accident in the neighbourhood. This gentleman, pleased with Braid's attentions, persuaded him to remove to Manchester, where there was more scope for his talents, and where he became distinguished for his special skill in dealing with some dangerous and difficult diseases, and acquired considerable popularity from his warm-hearted and cheerful disposition. In 1841 circumstances drew his attention to the subject of animal magnetism, on which La Fontaine delivered lectures in Manchester. He entered in a truly scientific way into the investigation of mesmerism, which he then believed to be wholly a system of collusion or illusion; but he soon discovered a reality in some of the phenomena, though he differed from the mesmerists as to their causes. His experiments proved that certain phenomena of abnormal sleep and a peculiar condition of mind and body might be self-induced by fixed gaze on any inanimate object, the mental attention being concentrated on the act. This proved the subjective or personal nature of the influence, and that it did not arise from any magnetic influence passing from the operator into the patient, as alleged by the mesmerists. This artificial condition he appropriately designated 'neuro-hypnotism,' afterwards shortened to 'hypnotism,' a term which has now come into general use. He read a paper at a meeting of the British Association at Manchester on 29 July 1842, entitled 'A Practical Essay on the Curative Agency of Neuro-hypnotism.' This was the first of a series of published results of his investigations, in the pursuit of which he met with much violent opposition from various quarters, especially from writers in the 'Zoist,' the special organ of the mesmerists. He went on, however, prosecuting his researches with care, and advocating the truth and the benefits of his method with good-humoured persistency. He died suddenly in Manchester on 25 March 1860.

The titles of his separate publications are as follows:

  1. 'Satanic Agency and Mesmerism reviewed, in a letter to the Rev. H. McNeile, A.M., in reply to a Sermon preached by him' (1842, 12mo).
  2. 'Neurypnology, or the Rationale of Nervous Sleep, considered in relation to Animal Magnetism. Illustrated by numerous cases of its successful application in the relief and cure of diseases' (1843, 12mo, pp. 288).
  3. 'The Power of the Mind over the Body: an experimental inquiry into the nature and cause of the phenomena attributed by Baron Reichenbach and others to a New Inponderable' (1846).
  4. 'Observations on Trance; or Human Hybernation' (1850).
  5. 'Electro-Biological Phenomena considered physiologically and psychologically,' from the 'Monthly Journal of Medical Science' for June 1851, with appendix.
  6. 'Magic, Witchcraft, Animal Magnetism, Hypnotism, and Electro-Biology; being a digest of the latest views of the author on these subjects. Third edition, greatly enlarged, embracing observations on J. C. Colquhoun's "History of Magnetism" ' (1852).
  7. 'Hypnotic-Therapeutics, illustrated by Cases. With an Appendix on Table-moving and Spirit-rapping,' reprinted from the 'Monthly Journal of Medical Science' for July 1853.
  8. 'The Physiology of Fascination, and the Critics criticised' (1855). The second part is a reply to attacks made in the 'Zoist.'
  9. 'Observations on the Nature and Treatment of certain Forms of Paralysis' (1855). He also wrote contributions to the medical journals on 'Caesarian section,' &c.

Braid's important hypnotic suggestion was introduced into France in 1859 by Dr. Azam, and was taken up later by Liebault, Charcot, Bernheim, Dumontpallier, P. Richet, and C. Richet. In Germany many of Braid's results have been obtained by following his methods by Heidenhain of Breslau, who, however, in his work published in 1880, does not mention the earlier investigator. Several translations of Braid's works have been published in France and Germany, one of the most recent being a German rendering of nearly all his writings, issued by W. Preyer in 1882, under the title 'Der Hypnotismus: ausgewählte Schriften von J. Braid.'

[Med. Times and Gazette. 1860, i. 365, 386; Manchester Courier. 31 March 1860; Encyc. Brit. (9th edit.) xv. 278 Carpenter's Mental Physiology, pp. 160, 548, 601; Carpenter's Mesmerism. &c., p. 16; Nineteenth Century, September 1860, p. 479; P. Janet in Journal Officiel, 6 May 1884; Littré, Dict. de Médecine, 1884, p. 797.]

C. W. S.