JOHANNA MAYER: In the late 1700s, a doctor showed up in Paris, and his methods were peculiar. The doctor brought groups of patients into dimly lit, eerily decorated rooms. He walked around, waved his arms over their bodies, touched them with a magnetic iron wand.
Patients would cry, sweat, convulse, burst into laughter. And then, they would emerge healed. Well, depending on who you ask. Wealthy patients flocked to the doctor while skeptical professionals insisted this was all just a hoax. But one thing was for certain, something about this strange, new treatment was working.
Spoiler alert, it was not the unearthly atmosphere or the magnetic wand because the magic was already there, in the patients' own minds. The doctor's name was Franz Anton Mesmer. And it's thanks to him that we have the word mesmerize.
I'm Johanna Mayer, Science DIction is back with more words and the stories behind them. This season is all about mind control. Why we've long believed the moon could manipulate our behavior. What happens when we decide to create new minds, and they refuse to be controlled? And the lengths the government has gone to pry away our favorite mind-altering substance. Science Diction is back February 9 to mesmerize you. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.