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Bedside Rounds

A tiny podcast about fascinating stories in clinical medicine. 


Dec 17, 2018

Mesmerism has had an outsize influence on medicine, despite the rapid rise and fall of its inventor Dr. Franz Mesmer and hostility from the medical establishment. This curious story covers the healing powers of magnets, secret societies in pre-Revolutionary France, fundamental questions about what makes someone alive, and one of the most fascinating medical investigations in history led by a dream team of Benjamin Franklin, Lavoisier, and Guillotine on behalf of King Louis XVI. Plus, a #AdamAnswers about the origin of the phrase “Code Blue.”



  • Damton R. Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.  
  • Dyer R, Mesmerism, Ancient and Modern. Victorian Web.
  • Franklin B et al, The Reports of the Royal Commission on Mesmer’s System of Animal Magnetism and other contemporary documents, James Lind Library, translated by Iml Donaldson. Retrieved online at
  • Lanska JT and Lanska DJ, Mesmer, Franz. Encyclopedia of the Neurological Sciences, 2014, pp 1106-1107.
  • Lanska DJ and Lanksa JT, Franz Anton Mesmer and the Rise and Fall of Animal Magnetism: Dramatic Cures, Controversy, and Ultimately a Triumph for the Scientific Method. Brain, Mind and Medicine: Essays in Eighteenth-Century Neuroscience pp 301-320
  • “Mesmerism,” Boston Med Surg J 1837; 17:185-187
  • Normandin S, Visions of Vitalism: Medicine, Philosophy and the Soul in Nineteenth
    Century France, October 2005
  • Shermer, M, Testing the Claims of Mesmerism: The First Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal Ever Conducted. Skeptic, retrieved online at
  • Sollberg, G. Vitalism and Vital Force in Life Sciences – The Demise and Life of a Scientific Conception
  • Weckowicz TE and Liebel-Weckowicz HP, 7 Nineteenth Century: Vitalist-Mechanist and Psychic-Somatic Controversies. Advances in Psychology, Volume 66, 1990, Pages 109-152


Youtube videos of the Armonica: