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Early Works on Animal Magnetism

Early Works on Animal Magnetism at Falk LibraryAnimal magnetism is a healing system devised by Franz Anton Mesmer. It is based on the belief in the existence of a universal magnetic fluid that is central in the restoration and maintenance of health. The first seed for this thought was planted when he coined the term “animal gravitation” in 1776. Mesmer renamed this universal force to “animal magnetism” and articulated its basic principles in twenty-seven propositions in his Mémoire sur la découverte du magnétisme animal of 1779.

Mesmer’s interest in invisible forces found concrete expression in his early medical practice, where he experimented with using iron magnets to treat illness. Later, he used new techniques which involved “magnetic passes” or sweeping movements of the hands to direct magnetic fluid to diseased parts of the patient’s body. Using these methods, Mesmer performed some remarkable cures in Austria, Germany and France. He attempted to gain acceptance for his theory of animal magnetism from the medical establishment of Vienna, then in Paris.

The medical faculty of Paris was alarmed at the popularity of Mesmer’s clinics and two commissions were constituted to investigate animal magnetism. Both of them produced reports unfavorable to animal magnetism, but at the same time contributed to the popularity of the movement by initiating the wave of pamphlets and books supporting or objecting to conclusions of both reports. Some of those early works participating in the heated discussion on animal magnetism are exhibited here.

Animal magnetism, though completely forgotten today, influenced the future research. The most important stream – psychological – stemming from the discovery of “magnetic sleep” by Puységur paved the way for research in psychotherapy through the work of James Braid, Ambroise Liebeault, Jean-Martin Charcot and Sigmund Freud. The followers in medical stream pursue Mesmer’s interest in healing. They also used animal magnetism as anesthetic for surgery. The third stream – parapsychological – influenced by the romantic philosophy lead to experimentation with “magnetic magic”, paranormal phenomena, somnambulism, and eventually spread of spiritualism.

On display in the Falk Library lobby from June to August 2014, the original exhibit presented only the selected early texts on animal magnetism. This online exhibit has been expanded to include all eighteen and nineteen century works on the subject housed in the library's Rare Book and Special Collections. Some of the annotations come from Adam Crabtree's Animal magnetism, early hypnotism, and psychical research, 1766-1925 available at and include the reference number to the source of citation. The annotations without a reference number were created at the library.


Recueil d’observations et de faits relatifs au magnétisme animal, présenté à l’auteur de cette découverte, et publié par la Société de Guienne. Philadelphie; Paris: Marchands de Nouveautés; Chez Gastelier, 1785.

Archiv für den thierischen Magnetismus. Edited by Carl A. Eschenmayer, Christian Friedrich Nasse, Dietrich G. Kieser. Vols. 1–12. Leipzig: Herbig, 1817–1824.

Notes and studies in the philosophy of animal magnetism and spiritualism. With observations upon catarrh, bronchitis, rheumatism, gout, scrofula, and cognate diseases. London: H. Baillière, 1867.

Discours et mémoires. Paris : Chez de Bure l'aîné, 1790.

Second volume includes two famous reports:

Considérations sur le magnétisme animal. The Hague: n.p., 1784.

Du magnétisme animal en France. Paris: Baillière, 1826.

Le magnétisme animal. Paris: Ancienne Librairie Germer Baillière et Cie; Félix Alcan, éditeur, 1887.

Lettre de Figaro au Comte Almaviva sur le magnétisme animal. Madrid and Paris, 1784.

Hints on animal magnetism, addressed to the medical profession in Great Britain. Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart, 1838.

Report of the experiments on animal magnetism, made by a Committee of the Medical Section of the French Royal Academy of Sciences: read at the meetings of the 21st and 28th of June, 1831, translated and now for the first time published; with a

The fallacy of phreno-magnetism detected and exposed. Edinburgh: Wilson, 1843.

A criticism of a hybrid branch of animal magnetism which combines it with phrenology considered by the author to be a pseudo-science.

Réflexions impartiales sur le magnétisme animal. Geneva: Chirol; Paris: Périsse, 1784.

Histoire critique du magnétisme animal. 2 vols. Paris: Mame, 1813.

Numerous cases of surgical operations without pain in the mesmeric state: with remarks upon the opposition of many members of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society and others to the reception of the inestimable blessings of mesmerism.

Essai sur les probabilités du somnambulism. Paris: Gastelier, 1785.

Lettre sur le magnétisme animal Paris and Philadelphia: Duplain, 1784.

Traité pratique du magnétisme et du somnambulisme: ou, résumé de tous les principes et procédés du magnétisme, avec la théorie et la définition du somnambulisme, le description du caractère et des facultés des somnambules, et les règles de leu

Report on the magnetical experiments made by the Commission of the Royal Academy of Medicine, of Paris, read in the meetings of June 21 and 28, 1831. Translated from the French, and preceded with an introduction, by Charles Poyen St. Sauveur.

Lettres de M. Mesmer, à M. Vicq-d’Azyr, et à messieurs les auteurs du Journal de Paris. Brussels: n.p., 1784.

Précis historique des faits relatifs au magnétisme animal jusques en Avril 1781. London, 1781.

A short sketch of animal magnetism : intended to direct attention to the propriety of practically examining that question. London : J. Hatchard, 1838.

Mesmerism the gift of God: in reply to “Satanic Agency and Mesmerism,” a sermon said to have been preached by the Rev. Hugh M’Neile: in a letter to a friend by a beneficed clergyman. London: W.E. Painter., 1843.

Rapport au public de quelques abus auxquels le magnétism animal a donneé lieu. Paris: Hérissant, 1785.

Report for the public on some misuses of animal magnetism.

Recherches et doutes sur le magnétisme animal. Paris: Prault, 1784.

Account of a case of successful amputation of the thigh, during the mesmeric state, without the knowledge of the patient: read to the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London, on Tuesday, the 22nd of November, 1842.

Trials of animal magnetism on the brute creation. London: Sherwood, Gilbert, & Piper, 1839.

The zoo-magnetic journal. No. 1 & 2. Edinburgh: Thornton and Collie, Printers, 1839.