Franz Anton Mesmer, Austrian physician

Franz Anton Mesmer, Austrian physician

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Credit: COLLECTION ABECASIS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). 1872 illustration of the Austrian physician Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer hypnotising a patient in 1773. Mesmer is best known as the founder of 'mesmerism' or hypnotism. 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, France. Hypnotism is today widely recognized and used medically.

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