Royal Commission Report on Animal Magnetism

A translation of the 18th century French Royal Commission Report on animal magnetism commissioned by King Louis XVI has been posted on the Skeptic‘s website. This investigation into the veracity of animal magnetism, or mesmerism, was undertaken by group of individuals that included Antoine Lavoisier, American Benjamin Franklin, and a number of other prominent intellectuals. The piece is introduced by Skeptic founder Michael Shermer who provides the following description of mesmerism:

The German physician Franz Anton Mesmer was the “discoverer” of animal magnetism, and he has ever since been remembered whenever we are “mesmerized” by something that seems to draw us to it like a magnet. The analogy is appropriate, for Mesmer reasoned that just as an invisible force of gravity binds the planets together, and an invisible force of electricity flows through various substances, and an invisible force of magnetism draws iron shavings to a loadstone, so an invisible force — animal magnetism — flows through living beings.

The Commission’s report, as well as Shermer’s introduction to it, can both be read here.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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