Felix Mann

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 27 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6322
  1. Alexander MacDonald

Felix Mann was an inspiration to doctors who wanted to find out more about acupuncture. He himself had gone from Malvern College to Christ’s College, Cambridge; to Westminster Hospital; and on to Ottawa; to return to Europe via Strasbourg, there to become medical assistant to Jean Scoch, whose anthroposophical thinking encouraged doctors to continue to observe phenomena faithfully, even when no explanation or even the ghost of an underlying theory is on offer. Felix once showed me his library, which contained part of his inspiration—the complete works of Goethe. This way of thinking was praised by Aldous Huxley in a preface to one of Felix’s books, “From telepathy to acupuncture, unusual facts get ignored by the very people whose business it is to investigate them—get ignored because they fail to fit into any of the academic pigeonholes and do not suffer themselves to be explained in terms of accredited theories.”

Given permission to proceed in this way allowed Felix to cope with the apparently bizarre practice of acupuncture, where, for example, recurring headaches can be relieved by a few sessions, where only one needle may be placed in the foot. This was the subject he studied in Munich, Vienna, and Montpellier, and finally in China, where he learnt to read Chinese.

With a flair for timing, Heinemann published some of his beautifully written books in time for US President Richard Nixon’s visit to Chairman Mao Zedong in 1972. …

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