Franz Anton Mesmer, born in Germany on May 23, 1733, studied for the priesthood, then law. Finally he took up the study of medicine and became a serious student at the University of Vienna. He ultimately became a faculty member there.
   Dr. Mesmer was convinced that magnets had curative properties. He believed in it so deeply that he even kept a magnet in a little sack around his neck. Unaware of his own hypnotic powers as a mesmerist, he attributed success to the stroking of his patients with a magnet. Throughout his adult life he also believed that a magic fluid, magnetic and invisible, surrounded everything animate and inanimate. This fluid had beneficent effects on human beings. He was convinced of its existence, even though he could not prove it. In later years, however, Mesmer, in an about-face, came to believe that his patients who had recovered had done so, not from his magnet, but from his stroking manipulations. Also he maintained that his hands held a healing power, which he called "animal magnetism." His claim attracted considerable interest in Paris, where he had moved in 1778. Patients flocked to his healing sessions, and Mesmer did achieve remarkable success, especially with hysterical patients. But when he sought the approval of the medical profession, some doctors denounced him as a faker, a charlatan. His refusal to divulge his secrets to a medical commission militated against acceptance of his theories.
   In 1784, a board of commissioners, including Benjamin Franklin, the U.S. commissioner to France, Antoine Lavoisier, and Joseph Guillotin, was appointed by King Louis XVI to investigate Mesmer's claims. The commission concluded that the supposed magnetic fluid could not be perceived by the senses and that its existence could not be inferred from a study of the patients. It branded the theory of animal magnetism a fraud, and stated that "Imagination without magnetism produces convulsions, and magnetism without imagination produces nothing." Mesmer retired from his medical practice, the report having damaged his reputation, and his prominence declined into obscurity. He died on March 5, 1815, near his German birthplace, at Meersburg, Baden. Mozart immortalized Mesmer in his Cosi fan tutte.
This magnetic stone
Should give the traveler pause
Once it was used by Mesmer,
Who was born
In Germany's green fields,
And who won great fame
In France.
   A pupil of Mesmer's, Puysegur, is credited with the first use of the term mesmerism to indicate Mesmer's practice, a form of hypnotism, which is the art of producing trance-sleep.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • mesmerism — MESMERÍSM s.n. Teoria magnetismului animal; (med.) tratament bazat pe această teorie. – Din fr. mesmérisme. Trimis de LauraGellner, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  MESMERÍSM s. v. magnetism animal. Trimis de siveco, 05.08.2004. Sursa: Sinonime … …   Dicționar Român

  • Mesmerism — Mes mer*ism, n. [From Mesmer, who first brought it into notice at Vienna, about 1775: cf. F. mesm[ e]risme.] An earlier name for {hypnosis} or {hypnotism}, the art of inducing an extraordinary or abnormal state of the nervous system, in which the …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mesmerism — (n.) hypnotism, 1802, from Fr. mesmérisme, named for Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 1815), Austrian physician who developed a theory of animal magnetism and a mysterious body fluid which allows one person to hypnotize another. Related: Mesmerist …   Etymology dictionary

  • mesmerism — ► NOUN 1) historical a therapeutic technique involving hypnotism. 2) hypnotism. DERIVATIVES mesmerist noun. ORIGIN named after the Austrian physician Franz A. Mesmer (1734 1815) …   English terms dictionary

  • mesmerism — [mez′mər iz΄əm, mes′mər iz΄əm] n. [Fr Mesmérisme, after F. A. Mesmer (1734 1815), Ger physician] 1. hypnotism, esp. as practiced by Mesmer in connection with his theory of animal magnetism 2. hypnotic or irresistible attraction; fascination… …   English World dictionary

  • mesmerism — A system of therapeutics from which were developed hypnotism and therapeutic suggestion. [F.A. Mesmer, Austrian physician, 1734–1815] * * * mes·mer·ism mez mə .riz əmalso mes n hypnotic induction by the practices of F. A. Mesmer that was believed …   Medical dictionary

  • mesmerism — noun Etymology: F. A. Mesmer Date: 1784 1. hypnotic induction held to involve animal magnetism; broadly hypnotism 2. hypnotic appeal • mesmerist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • mesmerism — mesmerist, n. /mez meuh riz euhm, mes /, n. 1. hypnosis as induced, according to F. A. Mesmer, through animal magnetism. 2. hypnotism. 3. a compelling attraction; fascination. [1775 85; MESMER + ISM] * * * …   Universalium

  • mesmerism — noun The method or power of gaining control over someones personality or actions …   Wiktionary

  • MESMERISM —    animal magnetism so called, or the alleged power which, by operating on the nervous system, one person obtains control over the thoughts and actions of another …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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