Franz Anton Mesmer born May 23, 1734 in the village of Iznang, now part of Moos, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. The father of hypnosis, Mesmer led a life plagued by intrigue and scandal.
He attended the University of Vienna in 1759. In 1766 he published his doctoral dissertation called “On the Influence of the Planets on the Human Body”.
By 1768 he married Anna Maria von Posch, a wealthy widow not a Spice Girl, and secured his place as a physician in Vienna.
Later that year court intrigue thwarted a performance of La Finta Semplice, which then 12-year-old Mozart wrote 500 pages, Mesmer purportedly hosted Mozart’s performance in his garden of an earlier work, Bastien und Bastienne to make up for it. Mozart later immortalized his former patron in a comedic reference in his opera Cosi fan tutte.
Mesmer founded a school in Vienna where he practiced his healing through animal magnetism, controlling the magnetic fluid through the use of pieces of iron and conductive minerals the patient would swallow.
During this time he accepted as a patient a blind pianist, Maria Theresia Paradis, blind from the age of 4 and a protege to the empress Maria Theresa. Using his animal magnetism he partially cured her blindness, however, her parents withdrew her from Mesmer’s care where she relapsed into blindness and Mesmer’s reputation became damaged as rumors followed.
Much controversy remains over the incident either because the parents received a pension so long as their daughter was blind, that her “sight” was only based on the suggestions of seeing things or that Mesmer had seduced her. Whatever really happened the incident forced Mesmer to move to Paris in 1778 to begin again.
Seventeenth century Paris a hotbed of mystics, spiritual teachers, scholars and prophets, Mesmer soon built a reputation as a miracle worker capable of curing anything short of death. Trouble followed Mesmer like iron to magnets. In 1784 Louis XVI appointed a committee consisting of several notable doctors and naturalist of the time including American Ambassador, Benjamin Franklin, to investigate the viability of magnetic phenomena.
The committee never met with Mesmer but with a disciple, Charles d’Eslon, private physician to the Count d’Artois (one of King Louis’ brothers). They concluded that Mesmer’s magnetic rays did not exist but that it was self suggestion, and the treatment was dangerous to women since it may remove their inhibitions. He fled Paris in 1785, his reputation destroyed.
By 1790 he found himself in Vienna settling the estate of his deceased wife.
In 1803 he settled in Switzerland. By then the Academy of Berlin acknowledge the validity of Mesmer’s work and sent Professor Wolfart to invite him to Berlin. Mesmer, now an old man, declined. So Wolfart remained to collect Mesmer’s knowledge until his death on March 5, 1815.
Dave, feel free to skip the next line because you graciously pretended it worked when I used it on you the first time. . .
Look deep into my VOWELS as I mesmerize you. (Repeat after me Wolfart, Wolfart, Wolfart.)