Mesmer, a physician, was born in Germany and practiced medicine in Vienna, Switzerland until 1779; and then in Paris, France, until 1794.
Mesmer’s first theory, Animal Magnetism, was the idea that magnets could be used to cure disease.
Later he decided we were all surrounded and permeated by an invisible fluid that is influenced by the moon, sun, and the planets in the same way as the tides. If all this seems strange, don’t forget, this was the eighteenth century. This fluid, he wrote, can also be influenced by magnets, magnetized objects, or by hand passed from one who has magnetic power. Mesmer used the term “animal magnetism”, but it became known as Mesmerism.
Dr. Mesmer felt the disease was caused by the improper flow of an invisible fluid. The theory was that when a subject was mesmerized, this improper flow was corrected. Mesmer’s method of trance induction was by contact and non-contact hand passes, a fixed gaze, and contact with “magnetized” rods, miscellaneous objects, and water.
The nature of Mesmer’s trance state was sometimes characterized as hysterical, manifesting in convulsions. Mesmer is credited with advancing an early and popular objective theory now called hypnotism. He was one of the first to give the state a name – Animal Magnetism. He became famous for his carriage trade clinics in Paris. He also expanded the field by training practitioners.