The Zoist
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The Zoist

The Zoist: A Journal of Cerebral Physiology & Mesmerism, and Their Applications to Human Welfare, was a British journal, devoted to the promotion of the theories and practices (and the collection and dissemination of reports of the applications) of mesmerism and phrenology, and the enterprise of "connecting and harmonizing practical science with little understood laws governing the mental structure of man".[1] The name derived from the Greek word Zoe () meaning "life". The Zoist was published quarterly, without a break, for fifteen years: from March 1843 until January 1856.

Edited by John Elliotson, M.D., the founder, and former president of the London Phrenological Society, who had been expelled from the University College Hospital in 1838 for his mesmeric practices, and William Collins Engledue, M.D., a former President of the British Phrenological Association, who was ostracized by both his medical colleagues for his dedication to mesmerism and phrenology, and by the majority of phrenologists for his rejection of their "socio-religious", spiritual position,[2] in favour of a scientific, materialist, brain-centred position that, in effect, reduced mental operations to physical forces.[3]

"The Zoist was a materialist journal; it repudiated metaphysics and argued that everything--including human thinking--could be explained through the laws of the physical universe ..."[4]

The journal

The Zoist's first edition was published in January 1843.

Aside from the already established journal, The Phrenological Journal and Miscellany, which ran from 1823 to 1847, and The Phrenological Almanac, which ran from 1842 to 1845, published by the Glasgow Phrenological Society, there was Spencer T. Hall's The Phreno-Magnet and Mirror of Nature: A Record of Facts, Experiments, and Discoveries in Phrenology, Magnetism, &c., which lasted for eleven monthly issues (from February 1843 to December 1843), the short-lived Mesmerist: A Journal of Vital Magnetism, which only lasted for twenty weekly issues (from 13 May 1843 to 23 September 1843), The Annals of Mesmerism and Mesmero-Phrenology, which lasted for three monthly issues (from July 1843 to September 1843), The People's Phrenological Journal and Compendium of Mental and Moral Science, published weekly, by the Exeter and London Phrenological Societies, for two years (1843 to 1844).[5] Then, to add to the mix, James Braid's definitive work on hypnotism, Neurypnology or The Rationale of Nervous Sleep, Considered in Relation with Animal Magnetism, Illustrated by Numerous Cases of its Successful Application in the Relief and Cure of Disease was released in July 1843.

In addition to the quarterly subscription copies, The Zoist was also published in annual volumes.


The Zoist was published quarterly, without a break, for fifteen years from March 1843 until January 1856; and each quarterly issue cost 2s.6d.. The first twelve annual volumes were published simultaneously by Hippolyte Balliere (London), J.B. Balliere (Paris), and T.O. Weigel (Leipzig); the thirteenth and last volume was published by Arthur Hall, Virtue, and Co. (London):

Cerebral Physiology & Mesmerism

The choice of the "Cerebral Physiology & Mesmerism" sub-title for their journal--rather than, that is, "Animal Magnetism & Phrenology"--is a measure of the pragmatic, materialist, "leading edge" proto-scientific orientation of both Elliotson and Engledue.

Their deliberately chosen term "cerebral physiology" (coined by Engledue) was entirely consistent with the original anatomy-centred term of "cranioscopy" (German, die Kraniometrie) chosen by the German neuroanatomist Franz Joseph Gall; and it was intentionally applied--rather than the (then) prevailing English, metaphysical, mind-centred term, "phrenology" coined by Thomas Forster (see Forster (1815)--to distinguish their own rational, sceptical, proto-scientific efforts in pursuit of a scientific understanding of (what would be termed, today) "brain science", from the superstitious "phrenology" (which was eventually universally dismissed as a flawed pseudoscience).[6]

Similarly, their choice of term "mesmerism" was intentionally applied to indicate that, whilst they were deeply committed to a scientific ratification, and neurophysiological investigation of the phenomena supposedly produced by mesmeric methods, their interest was almost exclusively in the consequences of the applications of the practices of Franz Mesmer, rather than paying any particular attention to the wide range of metaphysical theories of the "animal magnetists".


Apart from providing valuable literature reviews and announcements of new publications, The Zoist was a constant, reliable source of information, disciplinary interaction, original accounts of phenomena, relevant case studies of its application to wide range of conditions, ranging from epilepsy, stammering, and headache, to torticollis, asthma, and rheumatism, and extensive reports of pertinent innovations and discoveries. Elliotson was an opponent of capital punishment, and argued, within the Zoist, based upon his phrenological analysis of the heads of executed murderers, that not only was phrenology true, but also that, from this, capital punishment was futile as a deterrent.[7] According to Gauld (1992, pp. 219-243), apart from its concentration on mesmerism and phrenology, The Zoist was one of the principal sources for information, discussion, and education in the following domains of interest:

(1) Mesmeric Analgesia: although The Zoist would become the major vehicle for the (post-1846) reports of James Esdaile's work in India,[8] it completely ignored the extensive (early 1842) work reported by Braid in his Neurypnology (1843, p.253). Elliotson had already published his Numerous Cases of Surgical Operations without Pain in early 1843.
(2) Phreno-mesmerism (a.k.a. phreno-magnetism)[9][10] and hemicerebral mesmerism (the mesmerization of each hemisphere of the brain separately).[11]
(3) "Reichenbach phenomena" and other matters.[12]
(4) Electro-biology and related matters.
(5) Alleged instances of extra-sensory perception (ESP) occurring in a mesmeric context.

In accordance with its avowed purpose, the Zoist presented articles on phrenology and mesmerism. Many papers were contributed by Elliotson who was a constant writer in the journal. The purpose of these communications was essentially propagandistic.

For the most part they comprised reports on patients treated with mesmerism, testimonials and endorsements from physicians and satisfied patients, and polemics with opponents of mesmerism.
In addition, the Zoist also concerned itself with social problems, such as housing, crime, and education.
The views expressed on these questions were based generally on phrenological theory; and it is worthy of note that these views were very progressive.
Thus, opposition to capital punishment was forcibly expressed on several occasions, and demands were raised for the mental examination of criminals...[13]
An article bearing the title "Physical Well-being, a necessary preliminary to Moral and Intellectual Progression"[14] emphatically drew attention to the evils arising from lack of sanitation and overcrowding in the homes of the working masses.
The ill effects of poor housing in terms of premature mortality were pointed out and a demand made for better housing.
In the field of education, the Zoist insisted on the need for a national educational system: "Education is the proper remedy for crime, and there ought to be a national system of education, apart from religious belief and sectarian influence."[15]       (Rosen (1946), p.535.)


Unlike France, where the conflict between the conventional medical establishment and the advocates of mesmerism took place in the public/political arena,[16] the British debate between the conventional medical establishment and the scientific advocates of mesmerism, such as Elliotson and Engledue, took place mainly in the medical literature on the one hand (such as Wakley's Lancet), and The Zoist on the other.

Given Wakley's implacable opposition to Elliotson, it is not surprising that, from time to time, "The Lancet continued to fulminate against the mesmerists" maintaining that "all those connected with The Zoist were 'lepers', and doctors who practised mesmerism, traitors ...".[17]

Stress on the power of the imagination

A constant aspect of The Zoist's rational approach was its stress on the power of the imagination. In January 1855, in an article summarizing the Zoist's extensive coverage of the issue over more than a decade, Elliotson wrote of how, "in mesmeric states the effect of imagination is far greater than in the ordinary state, and we suspect that in persons not in the mesmeric state, but who have been formerly mesmerised, the power is far greater than in those who have never been mesmerised".[18]


Apart from Elliotson, Engledue, and an otherwise (at the time) unidentified constant contributor, operating under the nom de guerre of "L.E.G.E.",[19] and apart from its exhaustive reports of the clinical and social applications of mesmerism and phrenology, and pain-free medical and dental surgery, and progress reports from the London mesmeric Infirmary, The Zoist featured an exceptionally wide range of items contributed by a wide range of contributors (many of whom remained anonymous) from Britain, the colonies, and the United States. For example:

  • Three phrenological articles by Herbert Spencer: "A New View of the Functions of Imitation and Benevolence",[20] "On the Situation of the Organ of Amativeness",[21] and "A Theory concerning the Organ of Wonder".[22]
  • A poem written by Miss Anna Savage, reprinted from her recently released collection, Angel Visits (1845): "The Magnetic Sleeper".[23]
  • The publication of a previously unpublished paper, written by Thomas Symes Prideaux, esq. of Southampton in June 1839, which advocated using phrenology to select members of parliament (originally written for a "best essay" competition conducted in 1839 by the Phrenological Journal): "On the Application of Phrenology in the Choice of Parliamentary Representatives".[24][25]
  • Another poem from Miss Anna Savage, "suggested by the reply of a slave, who, on being asked to describe his feelings in the mesmeric state, answered, 'As I never felt before--free'.": "Verses by Miss Savage".[26]
  • A letter from Harriet Martineau describing her mesmeric treatment of a cow: "Mesmeric Cure of a Cow".[27]
  • A second letter from Harriet Martineau describing the angry visit of the veterinarian who had previously tried, in vain, to treat her dangerously ill cow (which was now quite well), on his hearing the news of its recovery: "Distressing effects in a Doctor upon the removal of a Disease from a Cow with Mesmerism".[28]
  • A contribution by Lieutenant Richard F. Burton, of Bombay: "Remarks upon a form of Sub-mesmerism, popularly called Electro-Biology, now practised in Scinde and other Eastern Countries".[29]
  • A communication from William John Tubbs, L.S.A. (London), M.R.C.S. (England), surgeon and mesmerist, of Upwell, Cambridgeshire to the effect that the son of John Tuck, labourer of Norfolk, and Elizabeth Tuck (née Rollins) had been christened "Mesmer":

                                  MESMERIC BAPTISM.

Mr. Tubbs prevailed upon the parents of a baby to have it christened Mesmer.
     "This is to certify that Mesmer, son of John and Elizabeth Tuck, of Outwell,
in the parish of Outwell, in the county of Norfolk, was born Dec. 18, 1850, and
baptized Feb. 3, 1851, by Thomas Charlton, minister of the Gospel.
     "Given under my hand this 4th day of February, 1851."[30]

  • In response to a query from "A Patient", the editors of The Zoist, whilst assuring the enquirer that "we feel as much as he does the difficulty of procuring good mesmerisers", proceeded to set down a set of positive and negative selection criteria: "Choice of a Mesmeriser".[31]
  • Yet another poem, this time from Mrs Maria Abdy, widow of the late Rev. John Channing Abdy, M.A., of St. John's, Southwark: "The Mesmerist".[32]

The end of The Zoist

In a parting address to their journal's readers and subscribers written on 31 December 1855,[33] the editors of The Zoist, reminded their readers that they had sought "neither pecuniary gain nor worldly reputation", and had willingly undertaken the enterprise despite the fact that "loss was nearly certain", and that "contempt, ridicule, virulent abuse, and serious injury, were all inevitable". Yet, they assured their readers, "the object for which The Zoist was undertaken"--namely, "the establishment of truths, splendid, exquisite, extensive in their bearings, and of the highest importance to the moral and corporeal well-being of mankind"--had been attained; and that it was their hope that it would "be regarded as a complete work which has come out in fifty-two numbers", and be recognized as "a rich store", and would be used as "a solid work of reference for years to come".

During thirteen years, we have amassed fresh facts in Cerebral Physiology and Mesmerism, and presented them in such numbers and with such proofs, that to question them would be absurd: and they are no longer questioned, except by the most ignorant, who will gradually form a smaller minority.

We have spared no labour in collecting facts or examining their solidity: we have never quailed under the attacks made upon us in the College of Physicians, in other lectures and addresses, in publications, or in conversation behind our backs, but have stood our ground and fought as became conscientious and fearless men.
While thus supporting truth, we have as earnestly applied ourselves to liberate it from the carelessly made observations of some, the weak and fanciful speculations and dreamings of others, and from that curse of all true natural knowledge and moral progress--superstition--supernatural imaginings--which are excluded from astronomy, chemistry, geology, and other sciences, and ought to be excluded from the physiology of the brain, or, in other words, the intellectual and moral functions of man and other animals, and from mesmerism, both which are but branches of natural knowledge.

Very few phrenologists have ever seen Gall's works, and yet the generality of them believe far more than he wrote.
We have studied them sentence by sentence, and yet are not satisfied with all that he has advanced, nor with by any means so much of what has been written by Dr. Spurzheim, Mr. Combe, and others of inferior note: and trust that we shall induce phrenologists to look more closely into the grounds of their convictions.
We have been anxious that the world should discern the fact that all the mental--the moral and intellectual phenomena of man and other animals--are but so many phenomena of the living organ called brain, or other nervous substances, and are subject to all the laws of the functions of all other organs; are inevitable and calculable effects of so many causes acting upon certain combinations of matter in certain circumstances; and that to view them as anything more than phenomena of nervous matter is a childish fancy, which in still more uncivilized times prevailed in the consideration of many of the phenomena of inanimate nature.
The terms force, power, principle, have led to so many fancies of peculiar substances or of spirits, that it would be better to speak only of phenomena and matter.

We have furnished ample examples of facts in the physiology of the brain of which metaphysicians and physiologists are not aware--facts proving that the term cerebral physiology comprehends more than phrenology, and is not synonymous with it, signifying, as this does, the relation between individual faculties and development of individual portions of the brain.
We have shewn that one brain can act silently upon another, one silently sympathize with another in emotion and in impressions communicated by the organs of sensation; that the brain can experience impressions from concealed or distant objects of sight; receive impressions to which we are habitually strangers; and can be impressed with what has passed or is to come.
Imagination in the mesmeric or sub-mesmeric state can effect prodigies.
Mesmerism has thus thrown a flood of light upon mental philosophy, and we have furnished an abundance of such illustrations.

The Zoist will for ever banish doubts of the reality of many facts in physiology and in disease.
Only twelve years ago the whole medical profession scoffed at the possibility of surgical operations being possible without any sensation.
The evenings of the 22nd of November and the 13th of December, 1842,[34][35][36] will ever be memorable in the annals of medicine: and afterwards, when surgeons were overwhelmed with mesmeric proofs, they eagerly adopted a new, but frequently injurious, method of accomplishing what they had held in derision and had spurned.
We have recorded all the glorious doings of Dr. Esdaile in India, and all the painless operations performed elsewhere up to this hour, so far as we know of them.

We have detailed almost endless instances of the great curative powers of mesmerism over diseases apparently very different from each other, and shewn that it is a mighty adjunct to the restorative power of the living frame--to the vis medicatrix naturæ which always battles against disease--that it soothes and strengthens, and, though not a remedy for every ailment, is likely to be more or less useful, and often strikingly useful, in every case, medical and surgical, general and local, in the young and the old, in the human subject and in the brute creation.
We have shewn what cause mankind would have to congratulate themselves if the medical profession would receive it into the mass of means which they hourly, and too often unsatisfactorily and injuriously, employ.
We have urged it upon the score of intellect and science, and upon what the profession disregard in the matter of mesmerism--upon the score of humanity and conscientiousness.
To say nothing of the cures, we may fairly express surprise that the common fact of pain being drawn lower and lower by the passes; of local insensibility and rigidity being produced by them, and removed by other processes; of diseases not infectious being communicated, and as it were transferred, from the patient to the mesmeriser (who, however, can easily be liberated from it); of susceptibility of peculiar effects in the mesmeric state from metals and other substances--do not attract the condescension of a second thought or look from the profession.
We have forced attention to singular nervous diseases disregarded by medical men, though occasionally recorded.

Examples of clairvoyance abound in all the volumes.
But, though this phenomenon appears unquestionable, we well know that gross imposition is hourly practised in regard to it by both professional clairvoyants and private individuals considered to be trustworthy but influenced by vanity and wickedness.
The assertions of a clairvoyant may be heard, but should be believed in scarcely one instance out of a hundred--nor indeed ever believed unless they are free from the possibility of lucky guess or trickery and are verified by ascertainment of the facts.
A host of clairvoyants are impostors, and no money should be paid to a clairvoyant unless on the understanding that he or she cannot guarantee you a true clairvoyance; for even in the genuine the power is uncertain.
We have also to regret that some mesmerisers are impostors, pretending to superior power and knowledge which they do not possess, talking, flourishing, and perhaps pouring forth religious sentences, and cruelly making pecuniary victims of their patients.
But let society remember that quackery pervades all professions and all occupations: that there are many professional mesmerisers who forego a portion, or even the whole, of their just remuneration from those who are poorly off: and that many persons mesmerise silently, modestly, and assiduously without any recompense.

The practice of mesmerism tends greatly to heighten sympathy with our suffering fellow-creatures and is a source of true happiness to conscientious mesmerisers.
We have presented satisfactory proofs that mesmeric phenomena, though they may be produced artificially, may all occur without artificial means, and are due to a peculiar condition, of which we are as ignorant as of the true nature of gravitation, electricity, heat, light, &c.
We can only observe phenomena, and ascertain to what they are or are not owing.

We have proved that mesmeric phenomena are independent of imagination, suggestion, fixed ideas, &c, though every mesmerist should be aware that imagination often plays a powerful part in mesmeric phenomena, and has thus proved a stumbling-block to investigators from the time of the first commission of enquiry in Paris in the last century to the present hour.
       (The Zoist, Vol.13, No.52, (January 1856), pp. 441-444.)


  1. ^ Godwin (1994), p.213.
  2. ^ Such as that maintained by William Scott, President of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society, in his " The Harmony of Phrenology with Scripture: Shewn in a Refutation of the Philosophical Errors contained in Mr Combe's "Constitution of Man" (1837); and by Mrs John Pugh (S.D. Pugh) in her Phrenology Considered in a Religious Light; or, Thoughts and Readings Consequent on the Perusal of "Combe's Constitution of Man" (1846), etc.
  3. ^ Cooter (1984), p.94.
  4. ^ Ruth (1999), p.305.
  5. ^ Cooter (1984), p.394; Kurshan (2006), pp.20-21.
  6. ^ Although there was no "truth" ever reliably established for phrenology, its (internally consistent) concept of "Phrenological Organs" (which were responsible for various "mental faculties", such as "tune", "language", "amativeness", "philoprogenitiveness", etc.) located beneath particular areas of the skull--and, thus, external craniological means could be used to diagnose the internal states of the mental characters--was the basis for the creation of a mind-set, generated by analogy, from which today's scientific understanding of the functional specialization of the brain eventually emerged.
  7. ^ Gauld (1992), p.207.
  8. ^ See Elliotson's synopsis of Esdaile's report.
  9. ^ Dr. Robert Hanham Collyer (1814-1891), M.D. (1839, Berkshire Medical College, Pittsfield, Massachusetts) was a (medical) pupil of Elliotson. In May 1841 he claimed to have discovered a new science, "Phreno-Mesmerism", in November 1839, which combined phrenology and mesmerism. He wrote an influential pamphlet on the subject--see Psychography, etc. (1843)--however, by October 1842, he no longer believed in phreno-mesmerism, and publicly retracted his views.
  10. ^ In his extended discussion of phrenology, in Chapter 6, of his Neurypnology (1843, pp.79-149), James Braid clearly states (p.105) that he began his investigations of phreno-mesmerism--which he deals with at pp.105-149--in April 1842 (just six weeks before Neurypnology was sent to the printer); and, it also extremely clear that, as a result of the researches and experiments undertaken over an extended period of time, Braid became convinced that there was no justification in the claims of the phreno-mesmerists (see Braid, !844).
  11. ^ e.g., Elliotson, (1844).
  12. ^ The Skeptic's Dictionary: Reichenbach's odic force.
  13. ^ Articles on these topics included: "Our Criminal Code", Vol.1, No.2, (July 1843), pp.101-110; Dr. Davey's paper to the Phrenological Association on "Criminal Insanity", Vol.1, No.3, (October 1843), pp.253-262; "Capital Punishment; or, Killing according to Law", Vol.7, No.28, (January 1850), pp.331-353; "Insanity" (Reviews of Remarks on the Plea of Insanity, and on the management of Criminal Lunatics, by Wm. Wood, M.D., and Crime and Insanity, their causes, connexion, and consequences, &c., by C. M. Burnett, M.D.), Vol.10, No.38, (July 1852) pp.103-115; and "A Visit to the Great Prison in Munich", by the Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, A.M. Cantab., in a letter to Dr. Elliotson, Vol.13, No.52, (January 1856), pp.419-440.
  14. ^ Vol.5, No.17, (April 1847), pp.81-101.
  15. ^ "Education as it is, and as it ought to be", Vol.2, No.5 (April 1844), pp.1-20.
  16. ^ See Darnton (1968).
  17. ^ Inglis (1992), p.175.
  18. ^ Elliotson (1855).
  19. ^ Both George Holyoake, editor of the secular journal, The Reasoner: A Weekly Journal, Utilitarian, Republican, & Communist (See The Reasoner, Vol.6, No.15, (11 April 1849), p.237), and the medical historian and phrenology scholar, Roger Cooter (see Cooter, 1976, Part I, p.14), have identified "L.E.G.E." as Engledue.
  20. ^ Vol.1, No.4, (January 1844), pp.369-385.
  21. ^ Vol.2, No.6, (July 1844), pp.186-189.
  22. ^ Vol.2, No.7, (October 1844), pp.316-325.
  23. ^ Vol.3, No.9, (April 1845), p.120.
  24. ^ Vol.3, No.12 (January 1846), pp.399-416.
  25. ^ Prideaux appended the following note to the publication: "It must be remembered that this was written nearly seven years ago. Phrenology since this period has made rapid strides towards being regarded as an accepted science. A phrenological chair has lately been instituted in one of our universities. The subject has been popularized by the allusions of writers of fiction and others, and an expression of disbelief in the science would not be considered a mark of ignorance by most persons having any pretension to keep pace with the knowledge of the day." (p.416)
  26. ^ Vol.4, No.13, (April 1846), pp.100-102.
  27. ^ Vol.8, No.31 (October 1850), pp.300-303.
  28. ^ Vol.8, No.32 (January 1851), pp.333-337.
  29. ^ Vol.10, No.38, (July 1852), pp.177-181.
  30. ^ Vol.10, No.38, (July 1852), p.227.
  31. ^ Vol.10, No.38, (July 1852), p.227.
  32. ^ Vol.10, No.40, (January 1852), p.377.
  33. ^ Vol.13, No.52, (January 1856), pp.441-444.
  34. ^ On 23 September 1842, the first documented operation using mesmerism for anæsthesia (a thigh amputation) was performed in the British Isles. Barrister William Topham (later, in 1853, Lt.-Col. Sir William Topham K.C.H.), was the mesmerist, and William Squire Ward, M.R.C.S., the surgeon.
  35. ^ Before undertaking the operation, Ward, the surgeon, had consulted Elliotson "upon the possibility and safety of operating in the mesmeric state". Elliotson had advised Ward that, in his view, "to induce such a state and perform the most painful operation in it, both without pain and with a successful result, was very practicable" (see Elliotson (1843), p.65.
  36. ^ On 22 November 1842, Topham and Ward made a presentation to the Royal Medicio-Chirurgical Society (the text is at Topham & Ward, 1842) that caused considerable controversy; with many of those present refusing to accept that the patient was free of pain (see "Mesmeric Amputation" (1843)). On 13 December, it was proposed that a committee of hospital surgeons investigate the claim that mesmerism could allow pain-free surgery.


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