The Mesmerism Investigation and the Crisis of Sensibilist Science

in Science in the Age of Sensibility

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226720784
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720852 | DOI:
The Mesmerism Investigation and the Crisis of Sensibilist Science

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This chapter focuses on the manipulation of sensibility. The Viennese polymath Franz Anton Mesmer captured the imagination of Paris society in the early 1780s with his claim to have harnessed the imponderable fluid of human sensibility. He said he could channel this fluid using implements such as wands, tubs filled with water and metal, and his own fingers. His assertions were borne out by dramatic results: he could provoke powerful sensations, emotional agitation, and dramatic convulsions in his patients. Louis XV appointed two commissions of academicians and doctors to look into the matter, and the chapter tells the story of their investigation and its startling conclusion.

Keywords: sensibility; Franz Anton Mesmer; fluid of sensibility; emotional agitation; Mesmerism; sensations

Chapter.  14845 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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