Dr. James Graham: Sexologist and Electrician

Another short-ish one today. Still haven't recovered from talking about Empress Sissi. I got the below story from Keith Souter's Medical Meddlers, Mediums and Magicians.

Okay, so: Dr. James Graham, mid-eighteenth century "physician". He dropped out of Edinburgh's prestigious medical school, but hey, don't let that total lack of a degree stop you from calling yourself a doctor and tampering with people's health. He couldn't really decide what do to . . . be an eye doctor? . . . be an ear doctor? . . . be a fertility doctor? So he moved to America for a bit, where he learned about electricity and got some genius ideas. Because nothing is safer than a dangerously unqualified doctor who now adds voltage to his treatment (Damn you, Ben Franklin *shakes fist at sky*).

He moved back to England when the Revolutionary War broke out and set up a practice that reeked of quackery (to me, sadly, not necessarily to all of his contemporaries) where he dabbled in mesmerism, vapor treatment, electricity treatment, and told people that most illnesses came from wearing wool clothing. Unfortunately, he got such high profile customers (like the Duchess of Devonshire, who set the fashion for just about everything in her day and who I really must do a post on sometime).

He opened up this place called "The Temple of Health" where he "treated" people, and basically convinced them that his methods worked by having beautiful, healthy-looking young girls wander around in scanty clothes. One of these girls was Emma Lyons, who later became Emma, Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress.

The main attraction at the Temple of Health was the Celestial Bed, which was rented out to infertile couples. Guys, I have a hard enough time sleeping in hotel beds without one of those black light scans. The mattress was stuffed with herbs and stallion hair (nothing makes a lady fecund like stallion hair), and it could tilt to any angle. The bed was thought of as a total joke, but it ended up being relatively successful, probably because the tilting of the bed helped in (as Souter puts it) "encouraging scanty seminal fluid specimens in the right direction". Yuck.

Despite his moderate success, his methods got crazier and crazier as time went on, to the point where he was giving demonstrations about something called an "earth-bed" where they just dig a hole in the ground and bury you up to your neck with dirt.

He then had the misfortune to die at the young age of 49, which pretty much discredited all of his methods, and instead convinced people that his nutso methods were responsible for killing him early.

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One Response to Dr. James Graham: Sexologist and Electrician

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not so nutso

    Not sure that James Graham is quite the joke he’s often presented as…I thoroughly enjoyed Lydia Syson’s biography of him, ‘Doctor of Love’ (Alma Books, 2008)


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