Today most of us think hypnotism is a party trick that makes people act like chickens. But it's creator, Franz Anton Mesmer, thought it could be used to treat many of the illnesses of his day. In 1774, Mesmer began using his method of staring into a patient's eyes while making “passes” with his hands to free the flow of “the process of life” within the body. By 1784 enough people were interested in this procedure that the king of France commissioned a study of Mesmer's practices using the scientific method.
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France by Mara Rockliffe tells the story of this investigation in a whimsical look at a true moment in history.
Take a look at other hard-to-believe scientific discoveries in Weird Science: Mad Marvels from the Way-Out World by Matthew Lake. And if you'd like to try using the scientic method yourself, check out True or False? by Andrea Mills.