Mesmer

Oct 25, 2017

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

If you explore the history of psychotherapy, you’ll come upon the name Franz Anton Mesmer. Mesmer was born in Germany in 1734, and it was Mesmer who invented the term “animal magnetism,” which is what he called the mysterious force, or fluid, that flowed through his own body and that he could redirect for therapeutic purposes. 


Before you laugh, you should know that Mesmer had many therapeutic successes and many disciples, and for a period in his life he was rich and famous. And it’s from Mesmer’s name that we get the word “mesmerize.” What does this have to do with music? Well, in 1767 Mesmer moved to a magnificent estate in Vienna, and among the guests he entertained there were the composers Gluck and Haydn. Leopold Mozart and his family were frequent guests, too, and when Leopold’s 12-year-old son Wolfgang wrote an opera called Bastien und Bastienne, the premiere took place in Dr. Mesmer’s private theater.

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.