Anton Mesmer was a doctor who claimed he could cure people with an unknown force of animal magnetism. He was the subject to a committee that found there was no evidence for his powers. Phil Ball tallks to Simon Shaffer, Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University, about the rise of showmanship in science at the time of Mesmer in the later 18th Century, and to Professor Richard Wiseman of Hertfordshire University about contemporary parapsychology.
Image: 1784: Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1734 -1815) Austrian doctor known for inducing a trance-like state, called mesmerism, Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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