Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Today in History: Mesmerizing birthday

On this date in 1734, Franz Anton Mesmer took his first bow on the world stage. More showman than physician, he developed theories about the influence of the planets on "tides" in the human body that he called "animal magnetism," but became popularized as "mesmerism." He believed that he also had this ability to control the body's tides, and he used that power to "heal" his patients. Through his touch and stare he was able to bring his patients to convulsion, which he believed was necesary to precipitate a recovery.

He was forced from Vienna by scandal in 1777, but found great popularity in Paris (much like Jerry Lewis, whose films can provoke convulsions in some of us) before getting debunked again by a scientific panel that included Ben Franklin. He returned to Switzerland, the place of his birth, at the onset of the French Revolution.

Mesmer's methods were later adapted to the practice of hypnotism. When I snap my fingers, you will believe that this was a very informative and entertaining post ...

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