animal magnetism

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A term introduced in 1779 by the Viennese physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815) for a substance resembling ordinary magnetism (believed also to be a substance) that he claimed to have discovered in human bodies and that could be channelled, stored, and transmitted between people. Two Royal Commissions in France, where Mesmer was then practising, investigated this claim in 1784 and declared that the effects that Mesmer had reported were in fact due to touch, imagination, and imitation. Mesmer's work is often cited as the basis for later research into hypnosis, but animal magnetism was not hypnosis, and there is no evidence that Mesmer ever hypnotized anyone. Also called mesmerism.

Subjects: Psychology.

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