Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An Odd Psychologist

By most people's standards, Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887) was an odd duck. However, he also managed to establish psychology as a scientific discipline with his Elements of Psychophysics (1860). I won't go into his science or his long service as professor at the University of Leipzig, though. Here's the fun stuff.

He wrote a time travel guide, The Little Book of Life After Death (1836). He also wrote on plants' consciousness, Nanna, or Concerning the Mental Life of Plants (1848). And he treated on celestial matters: Zend-Avesta, or Concerning Matters of Heaven and the Hereafter (1851). The was, metaphorically speaking, tethered between the material and spiritual worlds. Some people of his time would have regarded him as a crank, others as blasphemous. He was just his own guy.

Finally he was a satirist with a sharp pen in which he used the nom de plume Dr. Mises. He parodied the then-present tendency of the medical profession to consider iodine as a panacea, Proof That the Moon Is Made of Iodine (1821). Later on Dr. Mises authored The Comparative Anatomy of Angels (1825), in which he reasoned that angels must be perfect spheres. In fact, they were the planets! Fechner trotted out Dr. Mises from time to time to tweak his colleagues' pretensions and was, all in all, a real handful as a professor.

His students must have found him entertaining as well as brilliant.


Felycia said...

do you know where i can find a translated work by Dr. Mises?

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Unfortunately, the only available copies of Fechner's work using the pseudonym 'Dr. Mises' are in the German. As a matter of fact, it is hard to find an English translation of Elements of Psychophysics.

Here's a Google e-book:

Good luck with your search. Fechner used Dr. Mises a total of five times.