Esdaile, James (1808–1859)
Scottish surgeon and mesmerist. Esdaile was born February
6, 1808, at Sydenham, England, and educated at Edinburgh
University (M.D., 1830). After graduation he took a position as
a physician for the East India Company (1831–35). He initially
developed an interest in mesmerism from reading reports on
the medical uses of mesmerism by John Elliotson, who originally
introduced the subject into Britain.
Esdaile became a pioneer of surgical operations under mesmeric
trance. As director of Hooghley Hospital, Calcutta,
India, he performed many operations using mesmerism at the
same time that another surgeon, James Braid, was using similar
techniques in Britain. In support of his work, he wrote a series
of books Mesmeric Facts (1845), Mesmerism in India and its
Practical Application to Surgery and Medicine (1846), and Record
of Cases Treated in Mesmeric Hospital, 1846–47, with Reports by Official
Visitors (1847). In 1848 Esdaile was appointed Bengal
presidency surgeon. That same year chloroform and ether became
available as anesthetics in India, but Esdaile recommended
caution in their use, on the basis of his successful use of mesmerism.
He returned to Scotland in 1851 and wrote two books—The
Introduction to Mesmerism as an Anesthetic and Curative Agent into
the Hospitals of India (1852) and Natural and Mesmeric Clairvoyance
(1852)—detailing his work in an attempt to introduce his
successful procedures into Great Britain. He found that his
mesmeric techniques were not nearly as successful with Europeans
as they had been with Indians. He died January 10, 1859,
in England.
Sources
Esdaile, James. Mesmerism in India and its Practical Application
to Surgery and Medicine. 1846. Reprint, Chicago Psychic Research,
1902.
———. Natural and Mesmeric Clairvoyance. New York; London
H. Bailliere, 1852