The Mesmerist: Science vs Superstition in the Victorian era

Wendy Moore courtesy Colin Crisford

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The extraordinary story of the society doctor who held Victorian London spellbound

If you needed a tumour removed or a leg amputated in the early 1800s, the most surgeons could offer as pain relief was a large swig of brandy. Even less effective, physicians relied on leeches, cupping and toxic potions. So when mesmerism wafted over the Channel from France, physician John Elliotson was intrigued and resolved to harness its benefits for medicine. But his surgeon friend Thomas Wakley, editor of the influential Lancet, was disturbed and soon determined to expunge all trace of mesmerism from British shores.

Their battle throws into sharp focus fundamental questions about the fine dividing line between medicine and quackery, between science and superstition, in a Victorian society bedazzled by the magic of the music hall. And it poses questions – about hypnotism and other alternative therapies - for us today too.

Join Wendy Moore, author of Wedlock, as she tells the story of two pioneering men of science against the background of a nation in thrall to mesmerism.

Wendy Moore is a freelance journalist and author. Her first book, The Knife Man, won the Medical Journalists' Association Consumer Book Award in 2005 and was shortlisted for both the Saltire and Marsh Biography Awards. Her second book, Wedlock, has been highly acclaimed in reviews and was chosen as one of the 10 titles in the Channel 4 TV Book Club. How To Create The Perfect Wife was published to rapturous reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.

Enjoy food and drink purchased from the Knowledge Centre Bar from 18.00 and after the event until the Bar closes at 22.00.


Name: The Mesmerist: Science vs Superstition in the Victorian era
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546