Franz Anton Mesmer. Portrait of the controversial Austrian physician Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), founder of "mesmerism" or hypnotism. Born near Constance in Germany, he was educated at the University of Vienna. In 1772 he proposed the existence of a power, similar to magnetism, that exercises a strong influence on the human body. Mesmer claimed to send his patients into a trance by his consciously exerted "animal magnetism", their willpower being entirely subordinated to his. In spite of several successes his work drew scorn from orthodox doctors and he was expelled from Vienna, then ridiculed in Paris. Hypnotism is today widely recognized and used medically.
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