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Joseph Mortimer Granville

Born: 1833
Died: 1900
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Doctor, Inventor

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Electric vibrator

Joseph Mortimer Granville invented the electric vibrator, not as a sexual device but to relieve more mundane muscle aches. Originally called a percusser or more colloquially "Granville's hammer", the machine was manufactured and sold to physicians, but as it became increasingly popular its inventor tried to disassociate himself from the device's "mis-use". In his 1883 book on the subject, Nerve-Vibration and Excitation as Agents in the Treatment of Functional Disorder and Organic Disease, he wrote, "I have never yet percussed a female patient ... I have avoided, and shall continue to avoid the treatment of women by percussion, simply because I do not wish to be hoodwinked, and help to mislead others, by the vagaries of the hysterical state ..."

In the 19th century, masturbation was seen as deviant behavior, and as even more inappropriate for women than for men, since women were believed (and taught) to be free from any form of sexual desire. Some physicians treated "female hysteria" -- symptomized by insomnia, irritability, nervousness, or "excessive moisture inside the vagina" -- with what was termed "medicinal massage", inserting a finger and gently rubbing the woman's genitalia. This led to "paroxysm", a sudden outburst in the patient which doctors (being men) believed was not orgasm, since women were thought incapable of orgasm. "Physician-assisted paroxysm" became popular among patients, but for doctors it led to pained, sore fingers and wrists. Regardless of Dr Granville's intent and protestations, his device was soon adopted for the task, allowing treatment which had taken as long as an hour (and often failed) to instead be completed in mere minutes (and virtually always successfully).

At the height of his worldwide fame, Sigmund Freud sought to discredit medical masturbation, but by then many women viewed doctors as an unnecessary intermediary. Vibrators were soon offered in the Sears Roebuck catalogue, but with the advent of motion pictures came pornographic films, and when men realized how these machines were being used by women, vibrators were withdrawn from ordinary commercial distribution and even outlawed in many areas. In 1952, more than half a century after Dr Granville's death, the American Psychiatric Association concluded that female hysteria was a myth, not a disease. The sale of vibrators for sexual purposes remains illegal in many nations, and in the American states of Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia. In 2007 the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case questioning the Constitutionality of such prohibitions, leaving these laws in effect.

Wife: Mary Ellen Ormerod Granville (b. 1838)

    Royal College of Physicians
    Royal Statistical Society

Author of books:
While the 'Boy' Waits (1873)
The Borderlands of Insanity (1877, with Andrew Wynter)
The Care and Cure of the Insane (1877, two volumes)
The Secret of A Clear Head (1879)
Common Mind-Troubles (1879)
'Change' as A Mental Restorative (1880)
The Secret of A Good Memory (1880)
Nerve-Vibration and Excitation as Agents in the Treatment of Functional Disorder and Organic Disease (1883)
Youth: Its Care and Culture (1890)


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