From Catalepsy to Psychical Research: The Itinerary of Timothée Puel (1812–1890)

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The physician and botanist Timothée Puel (1812–1890) lived through a pivotal period of psychology (1848–1878), between the academic prohibition of the study of animal magnetism to its disjointed recovery in hypnotism and psychical research. One of his cases of “catalepsy complicated with somnambulism” triggered a lively debate on “extraordinary neuroses” within the young Société médico-psychologique [Medico-psychological Society]. In 1874, Puel founded the Revue de psychologie expérimentale [Journal of Experimental Psychology], the first of its kind in French, which he intended as the vehicle of international interest in psychical research, the scholarly and institutionalized study of “psychism” that prepared the way for the recognition of academic psychology. Puel circulated between these different currents by taking advantage of the polysemy of concepts like “sleep,” “experimental psychology,” and “psychism.” This article discusses his role in the context of emerging French psychology in the mid- to late 19th century.

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