Franz Anton Mesmer is one of the most controversial medical figures of his time but was influential in the development of hypnotism. Mesmer established a theory of animal magnetism. He used his theory to develop an intervention which was unlike any medical intervention of the time. His theory was examined by prominent scientists commissioned by King Louis XVI. These scientists included Benjamin Franklin (who went on to found the United States) and Anton Lavoisier (considered to be the father of modern chemistry). Mesmer developed both individual and group therapy using his techniques.
There was thought to be benefit in Mesmer’s approach but the underlying theory of animal magnetism did not have credibility. The Scottish surgeon James Braid (who specialised in the treatment of club foot) was responsible for developing Mesmerism utilising Scottish School of Common Sense’s method of philosophical enquiry.
Mesmer was a complex physician but the success of his approach is a combination of his originality in his approach, subjecting his approach to scientific enquiry by esteemed scientists, the recognition of a benefit in his results and the later development of a more credible body of theory which supported a more refined practice.
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