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Gibier, Dr Paul

Category: Scientist

Dr Paul Gibier (1851–1900) was a French doctor and bacteriologist, and a researcher into contagious diseases. He was also known for his interest in psychic phenomena. 

He was the Director and founder of the New York Pasteur Institute and before this Assistant Professor to the Museum of Natural Philosophy of Paris, (Comparative and Experimental Medicine); and an Interne of the Hospitals of Paris.  He also became a Member of the Academy of Sciences of New York; and was a Member of the Society for Psychical Research of London.

For his investigations onto cholera in Spain, he received a gold medal and for his work upon the same disease in the South of France he was made a Chevalier of
the Legion of Honour.

Early Psychic research

In Paris, Gibier had formed a circle of people interested in research in this area and wrote a number of books on the subject of Psychic research, including

  • Le spiritisme (fakirisme occidental) É́tude historique, critique et expérimentale (1887)
  • Physiologie transcendantale: Analyse des choses. Essai sur la science future (1890 – described as a summary of his reflections and investigations of fifteen years
  • Les matérialisations de fantômes: la pénétration de la matière & autres phénomènes psychiques.

One of the principle reasons he published these books was to ensure that his experiments and observations were made public.  Even in Dr Gibier’s day, it appears that so called ‘scientists’ were not exactly being very scientific about the way they treated his research:

Psychism: Analysis of Things Existing. Essays - Introduction

Under the cover of scientific conservatism it is the general tendency of men who have attained a certain position in universities and scientific societies to bar the way to any matters too strikingly diverging — according to their views — from the ordinary trend of observation. This is especially true of psychic phenomena. Although the latter may safely be placed at the head of the most interesting subjects soliciting man's attention, yet they do not appear to have attained the required degree of respectability for their introduction to the scientific societies and journals where the gentlemen alluded to, exercise their pontifical functions.

For this reason the investigator who is convinced of having matters of interest to communicate, must, in order to force his way to the attention of the public — general and special — resort to the publication of a book, wherein he may at liberty, on his own responsibility and to the full extent of his thought, if he so chooses, state aught which he considers worth writing. This is precisely the raison d'etre of the present book.

In 1886, Dr Gibier, who was at the time working in Paris, published the result of his first researches in Experimental Psychology – Spiritism ou Fakirism occidental, which was a critical and experimental study that included discussion of mediums, North American Indians and Hindu Fakirs.  The book was a resounding success with the general public, but was not received quite as well in the so-called scientific spheres. 

Psychism: Analysis of Things Existing. Essays - Introduction

[my] reward was general disfavour with my superiors and colleagues.  Since then opinions have changed, ideas progressed and the same writer has had the pleasure of seeing his work quoted, even by former opponents, and so to say, become classical.
Encouraged by this result – which he had not foreseen – he has written this book….which may be considered as a collection of thoughts and reflections, in short essays, arranged in chapters. 

In 1890, Gibier published his Physiologie transcendantale: Analyse des choses in which he described his research into psychological physiology, including careful studies of hypnotism and telepathy.

Medical research

Paul Gibier was born in France in 1851. He attended the University of Paris where he obtained a degree in medicine. His doctoral theses of 1884 was on rabies in animals, and was supervised by one of Louis Pasteur's friends. Soon after he graduated the French government sent him to Germany to investigate "the organization of laboratories for medical research."

His medical books included studies into Êtres microscopiques [microscopic beings], cholera, and rabies [rage].

  • Les Découvertes récentes sur les Êtres microscopiques et leur application à l'Agriculture (1883)
  • Étude sur le choléra d'après un rapport présenté à M. le ministre de l'intérieur sur l'épidémie de 1884 dans l'arrondissement de Brignolis (Var) (1884).
  • Recherches expérimentales sur la rage et sur son traitement (1884).

In 1888, Gibier was sent by the French government to study yellow fever in Florida and Havana. He hoped to find the yellow fever microbe that had been reported by Dr. Domingos José Freire of the Rio de Janeiro faculty of medicine. He reached Havana in November 1887, but was unable to find the micro-organisms in the blood of victims that had been reported by Freire. Gibier did find a bacillus in the intestine of a victim that seemed a possible cause of the disease, but further tests did not confirm this.

In 1889,  he traveled from Havana to Florida by way of New York due to quarantine regulations and settled in New York.  In 1890, Gibier founded the Pasteur Institute in New York for the treatment of people who had been bitten by rabid animals. The institute, headed by Dr Paul Gibier and with Dr. C. Van Schaick as assistant and Dr. A. Liautard as consulting veterinarian, opened on 18 February 1890. In the year that followed 828 people went for treatment, of whom 643 were found to not be rabid, 185 were treated, and of whom none died. Those who could not afford to pay were treated free.  At the time of his death, Dr Gibier was Director of the New York Pasteur Institute. 

Gibier also edited the Therapeutic Review. This quarterly journal, later renamed the Bulletin of the New York Pasteur Institute, included accounts of studies by Gibier and his colleagues, translations of medical articles from French and German, reports on rabies treatments, and advertisements for medical devices and products for practitioners, including antitoxins and serum remedies. His institute was the first in the United States to produce a diphtheria antitoxin.

Most of his work in his later years was devoted to trying to find ways of treating people with very serious diseases.  In 1895, for example, he bought a 183 acres (74 ha) farm on the Nyack Turnpike, on the outskirts of Suffern, New York.  There he built a large wood and stone frame sanitorium opened in 1898 for patients, particularly those suffering from tuberculosis.

As he became more Americanised, however, and as the need to raise funds and publicise the Institute became more of a pre-occupation, he also became more ‘establishment’ and research dwindled.  Instead his research was concentrated on finding new methods of culturing microbes and producing sera and antitoxins.

In October 1893, a new building on Central Park West was formally dedicated, specially built for the Institute.  And as if to emphasise his descent into the mundane, in December 1893, Gibier was the subject of a feature article in the New York Times. He became a member of the New York Academy of Medicine and of the Medical Association of New York.

Decline of Psychic research work

By the time he was in his forties in the late 1800s, his only psychic research book was a translation by himself [with his new found mastery of the English language] of a book he had written 9 years before.  The translation into English became Psychism: Analysis of Things Existing. Essays (1899). 

And there is a reason for this.  The USA was particularly hit by the problems of fraudulent mediums and magicians.  Whereas Gibier had actually witnessed and heard the accounts of ordinary people in France and the rest of Europe, people who had had no reason to make anything up because there was nothing to be gained from doing so from a monetary point of view, the USA had become hard nosed and sceptical from hearing about these exposures.

It is true that the question would be advanced some twenty-five years or more if it had not been for the numerous frauds which have kept many experimenters from investigating and publishing the results of their researches. But it behooves us to sift the grain from the chaff, I. e., the genuine from the spurious, in order to bring truth from its hidden recesses.

Dr Gibier has some exceptionally wise things to say about the apparent fraudulence of mediums.  We believe it is this insight, but the fact his American audience chose to ignore it, that eventually discouraged him so much that he in effect gave up his researches.  The saddest part of all is that from what we can see from the other evidence he was entirely right:

PSYCHISM Analysis of Things Existing

The spiritualistic medium ……. is often the plaything, or at least the instrument, of inferior and even very baneful occult influences.  For our part, we have seen striking examples of this. Being an essentially passive being, the medium is not only directed by foreign influences, good, bad or indifferent, but he is exposed to receive suggestions from the minds of the skeptical witnesses of his performances, and thus to attempt the very trick which he is strongly and a priori suspected to accomplish.

He is subject to being dominated over, guided and carried away by his own evil passions, which are insufficiently restrained through a will which becomes accustomed to yield and abdicate in favor of the passivity which is necessary for the production of the phenomena. The needs of his physical body, enervated through successive losses of animic energy, can be restrained, but with difficulty.

And thus, barring a few honest exceptions, one generally sees mediums capable of and really producing authentic psychical phenomena, phenomena which cannot be disputed, who yet resort to frauds, the most odious frauds, which sometimes are but rudely concealed. We have known an honest young man, a medium, non-professional, through the power of whose faculties the real phenomena of levitation and transportation of objects could be seen. He frequently acknowledged that he often felt tempted to add something to that which he was obtaining; he had a violent desire to simulate a phenomenon ranging in standard much lower than that which his natural faculty was capable of producing.

As he analyzed this impulsion, he said that it was partially due to a desire on his part to astonish the assistants and to avoid the fatigue attendant with genuine manifestations  [Frequently after sittings, when mediums have produced phenomena of great intensity, they are utterly exhausted], but was indulged in principally for the self- gratification of playing a good trick and deceiving people. Yet, he added that something which he could not exactly grasp (probably of an impulsive nature) added itself to the preceding causes and seemed to him to be quite forcible.  He assured us, however, that he had always resisted that temptation.

In short, the ordinary medium is a passive and impulsive individual, and frequently an incomplete one. We have known of one who was impotent, while another among the mediums whom we have studied, was a hermaphrodite.

It almost seems that the environment broke him.  He wrote no new medical textbooks.  And the sad end result can be seen in this materialistic little snippet

Wikipedia

Writing in the North American review Gibier advanced the view that the medical "priest" should lead the movement from "sentimental" to "scientific" religion. He thought that only the doctor could diagnose diseases such as socialism and anarchy, and that with his knowledge of genetics he could "contribute to the purification of the race" through marriage counseling.

Death

In June 1900 Gibier, aged 49,  was killed in an accident with a runaway carriage.  The Banner of Light said that spiritualism had lost one of its truest friends with the transition of Dr. Gibier, and indeed they were essentially correct, but he had become ‘lost’ not long after he came to live in the USA.  This is what might have been:

the time is fast approaching when a lack of knowledge of [psychic experience] will be considered as gross ignorance. It is the opinion of the author that this is a matter with which, through force of circumstances, everyone will be familiar before the twentieth century attains its period of adolescence. A great many scientists are cognizant of the question; the clergy becomes more and more interested in it, and several have held dissertations on it from the pulpit. Now, it must be stated that psychical matters are of such a nature that they may be compared to a set of powerful cog-wheels in motion; once the fingers are caught in the teeth, the whole body is drawn in. The movement cannot be stopped at present, and scientists, clergymen, and philosophers of all schools will soon be bound to come, volens nolens, to an understanding with regard to psychic phenomena.

………..the author, who refrained for some time from expressing opinions or theories relative to the psychic facts which he had been, and is still, observing daily, has gone a step further and writes on that which, in his opinion, may be the rationale of these phenomena. He sees in the latter the possible explanation of the Universe, and the Life which animates it.

References

  • Psychism: Analysis of Things Existing. Essays (1899)
  • Le spiritisme (fakirisme occidental) É́tude historique, critique et expérimentale

The paintings are by Julien Dupré, born in Paris on March 18, 1851 and studied at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs and the École des Beaux-Arts.  He exhibited his first painting at the Paris Salon in 1876,  Throughout his career Dupré championed the life of the peasant and continued painting scenes in the areas of Normandy and Brittany until his death on April 16, 1910.

 

 

 

Observations

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