Dr. Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann - His Life and Works
(For his beautiful portrait click here also see more at essays on Hahnemann)

    There was not and will never be a system of therapeutics entirely belonging to a single man's efforts, his sweat and toil. That is the relationship between Homoeopathy and  Dr. Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann.  A study of the history and a due appreciation of his character are so essential for enabling us to comprehend the various phases and development of this remarkable system of therapeutics. 

     The histories of many men who have risen to eminence in some particular branch of science teach us that they have done so under the most unfavourable circumstances and in spite of the greatest obstacles thrown in their way by fortune and by their own natural guardians. Without exception Dr. Hahnemann also belonged to this class of great men.


Birth and childhood

    Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann was born in Meissen, a little town on the banks of the river Elbe, near Dresden in West Germany.  He was born on the 10th of April 1755, as the third child of his parents.  His father, Mr. Christian Godfried Hahnemann was a porcelain painter in a factory at Meissen. Johanna Christeana Speiss, who became the second wife of Godfried Hahnemann was his mother.

Preliminary education

His parents taught him how to read and write.  He started his school education at the age of 12, in the town school of Meissen (1767).  He pursued a strong inclination to study in spite of his father's opposition.

At the age of 16, he was admitted to the Princes Grammar School of Meissen.  Where his aptitude for study excited the admiration of his schoolmaster Mr. Magister Muller, who instructed the young Hahnemann until his twentieth year without remuneration.

It was the custom to write an essay on some subject on leaving the school.  Hahnemann selected a somewhat unusual one.  "The wonderful structure of the human hand" selection of this topic gave an early indication of the trend of professional life of Hahnemann.  Hahnemann left the Princes Grammar School in 1775.

Study in medicine.

Twenty thalers and his father's blessings were all that he carried with him from Meissen to Leipzig, where his intention was to study medicine.  In Leipzig, he managed to support himself by teaching French and German and by translating books from English.

From Leipzig he went to Vienna to learn the practice of medicine in the hospitals there, where he had the fortune to secure the friendship of Dr. Von Quarin, who treated him like a son and took great pain to teach him the art of medicine.  In Vienna, he lost a greater part of his money and was thus forced to accept the post of family physician and librarian to the Governor of Transylvania, at Hemanstadt.

In 1779, be went to Erlangen to complete his study in medicine.  Where after a verbal defense of his thesis "A view of the causes and treatment of cramps", he received his doctors degree, on the 10th of August 1779.

Early Years of medical practice

At the age of 24, Hahnemann began to practice medicine in Hettstedt.  He practiced there  for only 9 months.  Then he moved towards Dessau in 1781, where he devoted himself to chemistry and literature.

First marriage

His deep interest in chemistry brought Hahnemann in close contact with Hasler's pharmacy, where he became acquainted with Hasler's step daughter, Henrietta Kuchler.  Hahnemann soon fell in love with this maiden of 17 years.  This urged him to find a more assured job than that in Dessau.  This at the end of 1781 he accepted the post of medical officer of Gommern.  On the 17th of November 1782 he married, J.L. Henrietta Kuchler.  In Dessau, he wrote his first book on medicine.

To Dresden

In 1785, Hahnemann shifted his residence from Gommern to Dresden, where he stayed for 4 years until 1789.  Here he wrote two medical books.  1. On Poisoning by Arsenic, its Treatment and Forensic detection (1786) 2. Instructions for Surgeon's in Venereal diseases (1789).

At Leipzig (1789-1792)

In 1789 he moved to Leipzig and in that year published his treatise "On Syphillis".  This work is remarkable for the description of a new preparation known to this day by the name "Hahnemann's soluble mercury".  In 1790 he translated Cullen's Materia Medica.  

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Dawn of Law of Similars

It was while translating this Cullen's Materia Medica, that Hahnemann discovered the first principle of Homoeopathy.  In the second volume of his work.  Cullen had expressed his opinion about the action of cinchona bark in intermittent fever.  According to him the therapeutic action of cinchona bark is due to is tonic effect on stomach and bitterness.  This description inspired Hahnemann to conduct experiments upon himself with cinchona bark in order to find out its effect on a perfectly healthy person.

He took four drams of good quality cinchona twice daily for many days.  After few days his feet and finger tips became cold.  He became drowsy; pulse became hard and quick.  He developed anxiety, trembling, prostration and pulsation of head; in short all the symptoms associated with intermittent fever except rigor.  Each paroxysm lasting for 2-3 hrs.  These symptoms recurred whenever he repeated the dose.

After this experiment Hahnemann came to the conclusion that the action of cinchona bark in intermittent fever is not due to its tonic action on stomach or bitterness, but due to its ability to produce symptoms similar to those of intermittent fever in healthy people  In other words, the pathogenesis effect of medicines will give the falling apple to Newton, and the swinging lamp in the Baptistery at Pisa, to Galileo.

But Hahnemann had little or no opportunity to test his ideas by practice at Leipzig.

Treatment of Insane

In the spring of 1792, Hahnemann accepted the offer of the Duke of Saxe Gotha to take charge of an asylum for the instance in Geogenthal.  The cure of the Hanovarian minister, Klockenbring, in this asylum, indicate that he was one of the earliest to advocate that the method of treatment of the insane is by mildness and not by violence.  

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Birth of Homoeopathy

In 1795, Hahnemann migrated to Wolfenbuttel and then to Konigslutter, where he remained until 1799.  In 1796, his remarkable essay appeared in Hufeland's Journal, namely "On a New Principles".  In this essay, he modestly but firmly expressed his belief that, for chronic disease at least, medicines should be employed that have the power of producing similar affection in the healthy body.  This essay herald the birth of Homoeopathy.

Several other essays followed this in rapid succession.  The physicians of konigslutter, jealous of the rising fame of the innovator, incited the apothecaries to bring an action against justice and common sense, Hahnemann who had shown himself a master of apothecaries' art, was prohibited from dispensing his own medicines.

Discovery of prophylactic power of Belladonna

During the last year of his residence in Konigslutter he witnessed a severe epidemic of scarlet fever.  In a family of four children, 3 were suffering from scarlet fever, but the fourth who was taking belladonna at that time for a disease of finger joints, escaped, though she had been always the first to take any epidemic that was going about.  Hahnemann noticed this fact and decided to put this to a test.

In a family of eight children, 3 suffering from scarlet fever, he gave to the remaining five children, belladonna in small doses. He repeated the dose in every 3 days.  As he had anticipated all these five children escaped from scarlet fever.  Then he confirmed his conclusion by verifying the prophylactic effect of belladonna in that epidemic.

This discovery is a true example of the application of inductive philosophy in Medical Science and can be compared with the discovery of small pox vaccination by Edward Jenner.

The hostility of apothecaries and physicians of Konigslutter drove him from that town in 1799.

The development of doctrines (1805-1811)

After 7 years of stress and wanderings, Hahnemann's life entered into a settled period.  He lived for 7 years in Torgau.

The years 1805 and 1806 were eventful for the development of his doctrines. In 1806, with the translation of Materia Medica of Albert von Haller, Hahnemann's translations came to an abrupt termination. All his works from 1806 onwards were originals.

In his masterly little work "Aesculapius in the Balance" published in 1806, Hahnemann demolished the time honoured faith in the medicine of 3000 years.  In the same year gave the first sketch of a Pure Materia Medica (Fragment a de viribus Medica Mentorum) to the world in Latin.  In the following year, in 1806, the most original, logical and brilliant essay that had ever appeared on the art of medicine, a wonderful exposition of his whole doctrine, entitled.  "The Medicine of Experience," was published in Hufeland's Journal.

In the year 1807, Hahnemann's "Indication of the Homoeopathic Employment of Medicines in Ordinary Practice "appeared in Hufeland's journal.  Three years later, this essay formed the basis of the introduction of Organon of Medicine.

In his treatise "On the value of Speculative System of Medicine" published in the same journal in 1808, Hahnemann strongly criticized the prescription of mixtures and compounded medicines.

Organon

In 1810, Hahnemann published the first edition of his masterpiece,  the immortal "Organon".  This work was intact and amplification and extension of his "Medicine of Experience" worked up with great care and presented in the aphoristic  style, after the model of some the Hippocratic writings.

Materia medica

In 1811, he published the first volume of the "Pure Materia Medica", which contained the pathogenesis of the medicines he had been silently testing up on himself and on his friends together with the symptoms which he had recorded from cases of poisoning by the same substances.

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At University of Leipzig (1811 - 1821)

In December 1811, Hahnemann turned his attention to delivering lectures in the Leipzig Medical University.  But this was not easy, as an external doctor was not allowed to deliver lectures unless he had defended his dissertation there.  On the 26th June 1812, Hahnemann delivered the qualifying speech.  The name of the dissertation was "Historic Medicinal Essay on the Treatment and Cure with Hellebore of Ancients" and was written in Latin.  This dissertation proved his learning and genius.

In 1812, Hahnemann opened his course of lectures to a circle of admiring students, old doctors, professors and many curious people.  Unfortunately these lectures were not  suited to win friends.  As a result of this his audience lessened every day, and finally consisted of only a few of his students.  In them he found a group of drugs provers.

Second edition of Organon (in 1819) and five more volumes of Materia Medica Pura appeared during this period.

After giving initial hopes of improvement in 1820, the Austrian Field Marshall, Prince Schwarzenberg died due to a stroke while under the treatment of Hahnemann.  The apothecaries took advantage of this incident.

Hahnemann's every increasing reputation as a successful physician aroused jealousy of his colleagues and apothecaries.  They made a complaint against Hahnemann to the Leipzig town council accusing him for dispensing medicines.  Hahnemann was brought before court on the 15th March 1820, the judgment was to stop the distribution and dispensing of any kind of medicine to anybody.

Since there was nothing left for him in Leipzig, he left Leipzig in 1821.

To Coethen (1821 - 1835)

In 1821, Hahnemann obtained permission from Duke of Coethen to settle down as a doctor there, and he was also allowed to prepare medicines.  In Coethen, he devoted himself entirely to practice and the development of the system.  Here he published 3rd, 4th and 5th (1824, 29, 33) editions of his Organon and a 2nd and 3rd editions of his Materia Medica, each time with great additions and careful revisions.

Theory of the origin of chronic diseases

In 1827, Hahnemann summoned to Coethen, his two oldest and most esteemed disciples Drs Stapf and Gross and communicated to them his theory of the origin of chronic disease and a new series of treatment.  He advised them to test the reality of his opinions and discoveries in their own practice.

Last medical work of fundamental importance

In the year 1828 the first and second volumes of his celebrated work on "Chronic Diseases, their Peculiar Nature and Homoeopathic Treatment" appeared.  This concept of chronic disease aroused violent criticism.  Many of his disciples and followers refused to follow him.  To his opponents, his new ideas seemed to be even more idiotic than the high dilution medicines of Homoeopathy.

A 3rd , 4th and fifth volume of "Chronic Diseases" containing extensive and valuable provings of new medicines successively appeared in 1829 and 1830.

Jubilee of Hahnemann's Doctorate

On the 10th of August, 1829, a large number of his disciples and admirers assembled at Coethen for the purpose of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his reception of the Doctor's degree.  On the same day, Hahnemann solemnly founded the first Homoeopathic Society under the name of the "Central Society of German Homoeopathists".

Death of his first wife

In the year 1830, Hahnemann lost his first wife, the sharer of his eventful life, in her sixty seventh year.  But for reasons unknown, Hahnemann did not announce his wife's death for 3 weeks to even to his nearest friends, such as Dr. Stapf.

The Cholera epidemic of 1831 - 32

In 1831 cholera invaded Germany from the East.  On its approach, on the basis of the therapeutic rules, Hahnemann fixed up on the remedies specific for it and printed direction to be circulated all over the country.  As a prophylactic and remedy for the first stage of cholera, he recommended camphor and in advanced cases, 2nd and 3rd stages Cuprum, Veratrum. Bryonia and Rhus tox.  The treatment recommended by Hahnemann soon proved to be successful and even medical boards recommended his procedure.

Second marriage

In 1835, Mille, Melanie, d' Hervilly, came to Coethen and succeeded in captivating Hahnemann, then in his eightieth year by the charms of her youth and beauty and carried him off to Paris.  In Paris, by her influence she obtained for him an authorization to practice there.  This second marriage is certainly an unexpected incident in the last act of Hahnemann's life drama.

In Paris (1835 - 1843)

In Paris, with this extreme change in his habits and occupations he found time to make many important additions to his great work on chronic diseases, of which he brought out a second edition.

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Death

Hahnemann lived in Paris for 8 years and died there full of honours, at the age of eighty nine on the 2nd of July 1843.  His body was buried in the cemetery of Montmartre and was accompanied to the grave by only for of his nearest relatives.  We might have wished that a man, who had acted such an important part in the world's history, had had a less meager attendance to his last resting - place.

Such is a brief outline of the life and labours of Hahnemann, whose name form an epoch in the history of medicine, as the founder of a school which has gained more adherents, roused up more assailants, written more books and exercised a more important influence on the art of medicine, than any school of medicine or sec since the days of Galen

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