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Reference MS.8756
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Previous Numbers WMS/ALS: Braid
Level Item
Extent 1 file (1 letter)
Title Braid, James (1795-1860), surgeon and hypnotist
Date 1844
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Name Braid, James, 1795?-1860.
Description Letter to W.R. Lowe of Wolverhampton, enclosing an account of a "conversazione" Braid has delivered to the Royal Institution. Both letter and account are apparently incomplete. The conversazione was apparently on the subject of phrenology and mentions experiments by Spencer T. Hall (1812-1885), phrenologist.
Historical Background

James Braid (1795-1860), surgeon and hypnotist, was born on 19 June 1795 at Ryelaw, Kinross, Scotland. He was the son of James Braid, who owned land in the area, and his wife Anne Suttie.

He trained as a surgeon through apprenticeship to a father and son team in Leith, both named Charles Anderson; he also went to classes at Edinburgh University during 1812-1814. In 1815 he passed as LRCS (Edinburgh).

He married Margaret Mason or Meason at St Cuthbert's Church, Edinburgh, on 17 November 1813. They had two children, a son and a daughter.

Braid was appointed surgeon to Lord Hopetoun's mines at Leadhills, Lanarkshire, in 1816. He set up in private practice in 1825, moving to Dumfries, but shortly after this moved to Manchester and was established here at 67 Piccadilly by 1828. he spent the rest of his career in Manchester; his practice was a successful one due to professional competance and personable manner, and he was also noted for his compassion towards those patients too poor to afford a fee.

Braid's significance in medical history is due to his work on hypnotism. In 1841 he attended a demonstration by the French mesmerist Charles Lafontaine and became interested in the basis of these phenomena. Following experiments he put forward the theory, in public lectures later in 1841, that the mesmeric state was not due to agitation of "mesmeric fluid" but to a particular nervous state, most easily brought on by concentration on a point of light - that is, that the condition was to do with neurology, not electromagnetism. In this he is the originator of the modern understanding of hypnotism, and the words "hypnosis" and "hypnotism" are his coinages. His ideas on the "nervous sleep", as he termed the state of hypnosis, were developed in a series of pamphlets and articles.

He died at 212 Oxford Street, Chorlton upon Medlock, Manchester, on 25 March 1860, and was buried at Neston, Cheshire. He was survived by his wife, his son (James Braid, b.1822, also a surgeon), and his daughter.

Acquisition Details Purchased from Sotheby's, London, December 1930 (acc.73350).
Accession Number 73350
Access Status Open
Access Conditions The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material.
Reproduction Conditions Images are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
Subject Phrenology
Subject Hypnosis
MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. 025bbfef-162b-4b3d-9b73-f24260e346bc

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Braid; James (1795-1860)