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SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), Viennese physician and hypnotist who claimed to be able to cure the sick by using "animal magnetism", later known as mesmerism. Following the contemporary craze for "medical electricity", Mesmer created in his salon in Paris the "baquet"(tub) which consisted of a large, circular, wooden tank containing shaped iron rods and filled with "magnetized water." It was able to accommodate a number of patients at a time. The treatment, conducted here by Mesmer with his wand, consisted of pressing the iron rods against the afflicted part of the body. His clientele was mainly Parisian society women from the middle- and upper- classes. The seance-like atmosphere induced hypnotic trances and convulsions which were considered cathartic and curative. In 1784 a commission of scientists denounced Mesmer as a charlatan and mesmerism fell into disrepute.
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