‘Out of sight, out of mind?’: The Daniel Turner-James Blondel dispute over the power of the maternal imagination

Annals of Science 49 (1):63-85 (1992)

In the late 1720s, Daniel Turner and James Blondel engaged in a pamphlet dispute over the power of the maternal imagination. Turner accepted the long-standing belief that a pregnant woman's imagination could be transferred to her unborn child, imprinting the foetus with various marks and deformities. Blondel sought to refute this view on rational and anatomical grounds. Two issues repeatedly received these authors' attention: the identity of imagination, and its power in pregnant women; and the process of generation and foetal development. In their discussions of these issues, differences between the authors' acceptance of general medical theories and philosophies became apparent. Blondel invoked Newtonian matter theory, experimental philosophy, and iatro-mechanism, while Turner adhered more to the authority of the Ancients and advocated a more direct role for the Creator as an alternative to mechanism in explaining natural phenomena. Additionally, the authors held differing views of what they regarded as experience. The widespread contemporary interest in their dispute suggests that Turner and Blondel raised the phenomenon of the maternal imagination from an issue of folk belief to a concern of eighteenth-century medicine.
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DOI 10.1080/00033799200200141
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