[Skip to content]

Sign up for our daily newsletter
The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries


The title of your June editorial (‘Under the influence’) may or may not be indicative but I fear that your operatic sensibilities appear to have been deadened when you linked mesmerism with some kind of spiritualism. If it were not for Mozart, I suspect few would recall that Dr Franz Mesmer’s claim to fame was the use of magnetism to cure patients. In reality, his ‘animal magnetism’ was a form of hypnosis. Act I of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte has Despina use a huge magnet to successfully revive Ferrando and Guglielmo (the two lovers dressed up as Albanians) who have swallowed poison. In real life Dr Mesmer’s treatment was less successful and was eventually exposed by a special commission of the French Academy of Sciences comprising among others Benjamin Franklin, Antoine Lavoisier, and Dr Guillotine. Dr Mesmer escaped the excesses of the French revolution by retiring to Switzerland to play the glass armonica.