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Animal Magnetism

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Mesmer, the Franklin Commission, and hypnosis: a counterfactual essay.

Kihlstrom JF.

Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley 94720-1650, USA.

The author reviews the social and scientific context for both Mesmer's theory of animal magnetism and the evaluation of that theory by the Franklin Commission. If Mesmer had never lived, someone else would have introduced magnets into medicine; and if the Franklin Commission had never met, someone else would have found the theory of animal magnetism invalid. Mesmer's theory was an imperfect analogy conditioned by the scientific vocabulary of his time, and the Franklin Commission's debunking of his theory left Mesmer's effects both unchallenged and unexplained. Both Mesmer and the Franklin Commission suffered from the fact that in their time scientific psychology was not merely unavailable but considered impossible

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