It was first developed in Europe in the eighteenth century.
Later it was used to locate underground minerals and treasures.
Dr. Solcol W. Tromp wrote about this phenomenon in his book Psychical Physics, a 534 page book published in 1949. 700 titles in the bibliography of the book were devoted to dowsing and radiesthesia.
Dr. Tromp believed that every object in the world has a characteristic "aura", or electro-magnetic field that can cause a sensitive person to be able to perform dowsing.
Although Dr. Tromp frowned on "long-distance radiesthesia", there is evidence that the German Navy attempted to use pendulums over large maps fo the North Atlantic to locate battleships.
There are still periodicals devoted to this phenomenon, such as monthly review, The Pendulum.
"Now there are so many scientists who believe in dowsing, that the suspicion comes to me that it may be only a myth after all." - Charles Fort