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By Robert Darnton

Early in 1788, Franz Anton Mesmer, a Viennese healthcare professional, arrived in Paris and commenced to promulgate a a bit unique idea of therapeutic that just about instantly seized the mind's eye of the overall population. Robert Darnton, in his energetic research of mesmerism and its relation to eighteenth-century radical political inspiration and renowned medical notions, presents an invaluable contribution to the examine of pop culture and the style within which principles are subtle down via a number of social degrees.

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14 Amateur science provided amusement, if nothing else. Scientist-magicians like Joseph Pinetti toured the country performing "amusing physics and various 14. Priestley, The History and Present State of Electricity, II, 134138, and passim; Journal de Bruxelles, January 10, 1784, p. 81, and March 6, 1784, p. 39 (see also May 15, 1784, p. 139); Courier de I'Europe, OctoberS, 1784, p. 228; Journal de Physique, July 1781, p. 80; Courier de l'Europe, August 27, 1784, p. 135; Journal de Paris, April 23, 1784, p.

20 Mesmerism was debated in the academies, salons, and cafes. It was investigated by the police, patronized by the queen, ridiculed several times on the stage, burlesqued in popular songs, doggerels, and cartoons, practiced in a network of masonic-like secret 20. -F. La Harpe, Correspondance litteraire ... (Paris, 1801-1807), IV, 266; Hardy's. manuscript journal, Bibliotheque Nationale, fonds fran\ais, 6684, May·l, 1784, p. 444 (Hardy paid much less attention to mesmerism than did most nouvellistes); Mhnoircs secrets, April 9, 1784, p.

260, and October 29, 1784, p. -P. Brissot, Theorie des loix criminelles (Berlin, 1781), I, 243. MESMERISM AND POPULAR SCIENCE hoist heavy weights, pump water, grind grain, and travel on rivers. Moreover he promised new methods of heating and cooling apartments, salvaging sunken ships, communicating thoughts with great speed over great distances, and seeing objects on other planets as clearly as if they were on earth. 17 Pseudoscience, in turn, carried Parisians into the territory of occultism, which had bordered on science since the Middle Ages.

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