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Max Dessoir

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Max Dessoir
BornMax Dessauer
February 08, 1867
Berlin, Germany
DiedJuly 19, 1947 (age 80)
Königstein im Taunus, Germany

Max Dessoir (February 8, 1867 – July 19, 1947), a German philosopher and theorist of aesthetics, was a skeptical student of the occult and an amateur magician who performed for charity as "Edmund W. Rells".


Dessoir was born in Berlin and earned doctorates from the universities of Berlin (philosophy, 1889) and Würzburg (medicine, 1892). He was a professor at Berlin from 1897 until 1933, when the Nazis forbade him to teach.

In 1889, in an article in the German periodical Sphinx, Dessoir coined the term 'parapsychology' (actually in its German equivalent, 'Parapsychologie'): "If one ... characterizes by para- something going beyond or besides the ordinary, than one could perhaps call the phenomena that step outside the usual process of the inner life parapsychical, and the science dealing with them parapsychology. The word is not nice, yet in my opinion it has the advantage to denote a hitherto unknown fringe area between the average and the pathological states; however, more than the limited value of practical usefulness such neologisms do not demand."

Dessoir wrote one of the first analysis on the psychological basis of magical illusions in "Zur Psychologie der Zauberkunst" (as Edmund Rells) in Psychologische Skizzen (1893). An English translation was "The Psychology of Legerdemain" in The Open Court, Vol.7, No. 291 (1893). It was reprinted in H. J. Burlingame's Around the World with a Magician (1896 edition) and also in Burlingame's Herrmann the Magician (1897)[1]


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