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Binger, C. (1936). Franz Anton Mesmer: A History of Mesmerism by Margaret Goldsmith. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1934. 308 p.. Psychoanal Q., 5:293-294.
(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:293-294
Franz Anton Mesmer: A History of Mesmerism by Margaret Goldsmith. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1934. 308 p.
Review by: Carl Binger
To anyone interested in the history of scientific discovery this book will be welcome. It presents tellingly the story of the tenacious viability of fact in the face of obscurantism, confusion of false cause, social and economic bigotries and persecution. The author develops her story historically and chronologically, making of Mesmer the rightful heir of Philippus Aurealus Theophrastus Bombastus of Hohenheim: Paracelsus, to wit. As Mesmer is his spiritual son, so he in turn sired such strange congeners as the New England Theosophists and "Scientists", and the Nancy School of psychotherapists whose arboreal descendants we may perhaps be. Even Charcot experimented with a magnet.
There is much in Mesmer's career that is reminiscent of Freud and the early days of the psychoanalytic movement, though the men, Mesmer and Freud, are in character antipodal. After many vicissitudes Mesmer's views were finally subjected to a Commission of Inquiry appointed on behalf of the Academy of Sciences by Louis XVI. The members of the Commission presented an impressive list of names, among them Lavoisier, certainly one of the greatest forces in the development of modern physiology, Dr. Guillotin, de Jussieu of the famous family of French botanists, and the American Ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin, then a man of seventy-two. Of the report Miss Goldsmith has this to say: "The Commission's disapproval of Mesmer's doctrines, a disapproval amounting to hostility, reflects a curious state of mind. One wonders, if, as these scientists claim, they saw nothing whatever in his cures, why they should have become so agitated about them, so personal in their attack?" Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis!
The members of the Commission concluded that "some sick persons of the common people are the only ones who feel any effects of animal magnetism."
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