Franz Anton Mesmer, The Father of Animal Magnetism

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.

Mesmerism, next to my picture in the dictionary.

Mesmerism, next to my picture in the dictionary. (Of course, he never said that.)

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.)

Tracy—Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

Courtesy of Dave

Courtesy of Dave


About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
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28 Responses to Franz Anton Mesmer, The Father of Animal Magnetism

  1. Liz says:

    How’s you find this guy, Tracy? Either he was gifted and brilliant or a creepy faker . Maybe both? Lol the part about lowering the inhibitions of the ladies. This one smacks of a 2-hour TV drama. You can write the script 🙂

    • The creepy factor sure does come out. I wonder if Hallmark Entertainment would pick it up. lol.

    • P.S. I found him when I was trying to spell mesmerize and had to look it up the old fashioned way in the dictionary. 🙂

      He was such a fascinating read, I couldn’t put it down. . .500 words only gave us the highlights. You could say he mesmerized me. But my husband’s convinced it didn’t lower my inhibitions. 🙂

      • Dave says:

        A lot of my favorite funny names were found in really peculiar places. Once you start noticing funny names, you can find them everywhere. It’s a fun little journey of discovery!

        Lol about your comment about your husband 🙂

        • Dave–now that you’ve got me hooked, I’m finding names all over the place.

          • Dave says:

            It’s a blessing and a curse. Mostly a blessing, except when you’re talking to someone with a funny name and can’t suppress a chuckle. They don’t always enjoy their name as much as you do 🙂 Hopefully our blog can help them embrace just how awesome it is to have an amazing, funny name. It sure as heck beats “Dave”!

          • I like the blessing part. It makes me appreciate people’s names that much more. 🙂

  2. amb says:

    I second that idea! I would totally watch this on tv 😀

    All kinds of entertaining as always, my friend. Loved the part about self suggestion being considered dangerous as it might lower a woman’s inhibitions! *gasp!* What a terrifying thought 😉

  3. Reblogged this on Fannie Cranium's and commented:

    This month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names. Franz Mesmer will mesmerize you. 🙂 Enjoy.

  4. Dave says:

    Also, I saw this draft sitting in the drafts folder for a while but never guessed that “animal magnetism” actually meant applying magnets to animals in this particular case. What an odd duck!

  5. Pingback: TODAY’S BIRTHDAY: Franz Anton Mesmer (1734) | euzicasa

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