Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 September 2019
Chapter One explores ancestors of the idea that the physical sciences were relevant and significant to the study of obscure powers associated with the human body and mind. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, practitioners of animal magnetism and mesmerism linked the study of a supposed new imponderable ‘magnetic’ fluid affecting health to better-known physical imponderables. In the mid-nineteenth century the German chemist Karl von Reichenbach and his followers stimulated much debate for their alleged discovery of new imponderable ‘od’ that they believed extended the domain of physics into the realm of physiology. From the 1840s onwards ’Modern Spiritualism’ prompted many natural philosophers to intervene on controversies over its startling physical effects. The final section of the chapter contextualises these attempts to link physical and psychical realms in terms of the fluid state of the physical sciences in the early and mid-nineteenth century.