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Scoresby, William (1789-1857)

Scoresby, William (1789-1857)

British Arctic explorer, whaler, physicist, author, and clergyman who was also a pioneer in the study of animal magnetism. He was born on October 5, 1789, at Cropton, near Whitby, England. At the age of eleven, he accompanied his father (a master mariner) on a whaling expedition, afterward resuming his education at a simple country school. Three years later, he was apprenticed to his father on a whaler. He made annual voyages to Greenland, and became a ship's chief officer in 1806. Later in the same year, he resumed his studies, entering Edinburgh University, Scotland, and studying chemistry and natural philosophy.

In 1807, he undertook a voyage to survey and chart the Balta Sound in the Shetland Islands. Afterward he served with the fleet at Copenhagen. He left the navy a year later and became acquainted with Joseph Banks, who introduced him to other scientists of the day. Scoresby made studies of natural phenomena and resumed attendance at Edinburgh University. From 1813 to 1817, he was at sea again, in charge of whaling vessels. In January 1819, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in the following month he contributed a paper on variations of the magnetic needle to the Royal Society of London. The next year he published his first book, An Account of the Arctic Regions, with a History and Description of the Northern Whale-Fishery (2 vols., 1820), for many years the standard work on the subject. This was the first of a number of books that grew out of his worldwide travels.

In 1819, Scoresby moved with his family to Liverpool, where he superintended the building of the Baffin, a vessel fitted for the Greenland trade. He made three successful voyages in this vessel, but on returning to Liverpool in 1822, he found that his wife had died. Her death stimulated his strong religious convictions. Following his next voyage in 1823, he entered Queen's College, Cambridge, England, to prepare for the ministry. He was ordained in 1825, and for two years he was curé of Bessingby, near Bridlington Quay, in the north of England.

He became successively chaplain of Mariners Church, Liverpool (1827-32), incumbent of Bedford Chapel, Exeter (1932-39), and vicar of Bradford (1839-47). He resigned because of ill health, having spent six months leave on a voyage to the United States in search of a replacement. He lived his last years at the English seaside resort of Torquay when he was not traveling in search of some relief from his illness. He died at Torquay on March 21, 1857.

It was during his years at Exeter that Scoresby's interest in animal magnetism (mesmerism ), arising from his observations on terrestrial magnetism during his polar voyages, emerged. During his last years at Torquay, he conducted a number of experiments, having found that he could mesmerize subjects easily. He gave the name "zoistic magnetism" to this hypnotic faculty. His third wife was one of his hypnotic subjects.

Scoresby's careful research into the possibility of clairvoyance resulted in persuasive evidence for thought transference or community of sensation between operator and subject. One entranced subject was able to describe accurately food that Scoresby tasted and also identified physical sensations in Scoresby's body. Another subject was immobilized as she sat on a sofa that had been "magnetized" by Scoresby and was unable to move outside an imaginary circle that Scoresby had traced on the floor. The power of purely imaginary diagrams to imprison hypnotized subjects was often explored by early mesmerists and suggests affinities with the magic circles of occult magicians.

Scoresby's work in the field of animal magnetism is of special importance. His book Zoistic Magnetism influenced James Esdaile, who read it while he was in India. Esdaile claimed to have successfully repeated Scoresby's experiment in "magnetizing" a sofa, using an armchair with knobs that Esdaile "magnetized." The subject was unable to remove his hands from the chair knobs until Esdaile had made mesmeric passes over him.

Sources:

Scoresby, William. Journal of a Voyage to Australia for Magnetical Research. London: Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1859.

. Magnetical Investigations. 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1844-52.

. Zoistic Magnetism. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849.

Stamp, Tom, and Cordelia Stamp. William Scoresby, Arctic Scientist. Whitby, U.K.: Whitby Press, 1975.

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Scoresby, William

William Scoresby (skôrz´bē), 1789–1857, English arctic explorer and scientist. He made yearly voyages (1803–22) to Greenland, at first on his father's whaler, later as captain on other ships. Preparing himself by study between voyages, he mapped, charted, made deep-sea temperature soundings, noted the flora and fauna, and collected other valuable data along the little-known and hitherto unknown coasts of Greenland, giving special attention to terrestrial magnetism. His last trip to the Arctic was made in 1822. In 1825 he entered the Anglican ministry. He maintained his interest in exploration and encouraged the search for the Northwest Passage. He made a voyage to Australia (1856) to study terrestrial magnetism. Scoresby's several books on his arctic experiences helped lay the foundations of modern arctic geography.

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"Scoresby, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Scoresby, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scoresby-william

"Scoresby, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scoresby-william