In this essay, I am trying to avoid writing a biography of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. Biographies on Him are available in a great number of (online) literature. Still, there will be no way to give a short history of homeopathy without Him being mentioned. Also, the given history will be far from being complete. You will find a selection of notable data, but most probably, You will also miss many. Hpathy and me as the writer of these lines are open to Your input, we will be able to add further informations according to recommendations that You may consider being essential.
Let me start with the question of when homeopathy had its date of birth. Opinions are in disagreement. Most authors focus on two events:
a. Dr. Hahnemann’s translation of ‘A Treatise Of The Materia Medica’ by William Cullen resulting in the famous experiment with china bark (1790).
b. The publishing of Dr. Hahnemann’s artikle in the Hufeland’s Journal in 1796, entitled ‘Versuch über ein neues Prinzip zur Auffindung der HeilkrÃ¤fte der Arzneisubstanzen nebst einigen Blicken auf die bisherigen.’ (‘Essay On A New Principle To Determine The Healing Powers Of Medicinal Substances, Including Consideration Of Those To Date’).
In 1800, Dr. Hahnemann starts His homeopathic practice. The following years He develops His main works one of which will become the ‘Organon Of Rational Healing’ (in later editions: ‘The Medicine Of Experience’), the ‘Materia Medica Pura’ and a good number of more publications. In 1811, when He arrived in Leipzig, homeopathy has to be considered as being unknown. In 1821, when Dr. Hahnemann left for Koethen, His art of healing has already become popular. In Leipzig, the atmosphere between pharmacists and physicians towards Dr. Hahnemann got increasingly disturbed. The pharmacists didn’t want to see Hahnemann dispensing medicines on His own, and some of the physisicians still used conventional treatments together with homeopathy which was unacceptable for Dr. Hahnemann. Also, He has taught as a lecturer who was not a member of the salaried university staff. His violent eruptions when commenting on conventional medicine were one reason that after some years, only four handful of students were left following Him faithfully. They have been an important source for His ongoing remedy provings. They, together with Dr. Hahnemann’s charisma and successful treatments (of mighty and wealthy patients), contributed to the increasing popularity of homeopahty. Still He had to face the critics (and the reports to the authorities) of the local pharmacists because of His continued self-dispensing and submission of medicines (the latter became prohibited).
During Dr. Hahnemann’s years in Koethen, homeopathy got a further push due to the cholera epidemy that had cost many lives not only in Germany. His successful treatment of cholera cases did promote His reputation to a good extend. Why He was so successful in dealing with cholera is a point of discussion: was it homeopathy or was it His rejection of the conventional method of blood-letting. Also He gave His patients enough water to drink which was not common in treating cholera conventionally. Kindly have a look at Hahnemann’s articles published in His ‘Lesser Writings’ (‘Kleine Schriften’) on cholera in order to get a hint of the faith and enthusiasm that Hahnemann was able to spread – now even beyond the borders.
Helpful to establish homeopathy definitely were the ‘Archiv für die homoeopathische Heilkunst’ ~ ‘archive of the homeopathic art of healing’ (Stapf’s archive), the foundation of the ‘Verein zur Befoerderung und Ausbildung der homoeopathischen Heilkunst’ ~ ‘Society for the Promotion of and Training for the Homeopathic Art of Healing’ (later ‘Homoeopathischer Zentralverein’ ~ ‘Homeopathic Central Society’), and the appearance of the ‘Allgemeine homoeopathische Zeitung’ (AHZ) ~ ‘General Homeopathic Journal’.
Already during the 40’s of the nineteenth century, different streams of homeopathy and even splittings within homeopathy became obvious. Not all of the followers of Dr. Hahnemann were able to follow His theory of the Psora. That time we met the foundation of the ‘free homeopaths (free from Hahnemann), the linking homeopaths (linking to conventional medicine) and the Hahnemannians. During the 1890’s, the term ‘scientific-critical homeopathy’ has been coined (even though medicine was not yet scientific in the modern sense of the meaning).
The early ‘Homeopathic Central Society’ set up a fund for a homeopathic hospital that was started with 24 beds. In 1824 it had to close again for financial reasons. It is recorded that it is especially due to Dr. Hahnemann’s dictatorial manner (He already had closed the ‘Zentralverein’ in 1835 without really being authorized to do so, but it was reopened in1836 against His will) that the economic problems got out of control and so public funds for the hospital got withdrawn.
In Stapf’s Archive, the ‘Magna Carta’ of the critical homeopaths has been published refusing some of Hahnemann’s concepts. Vehsemeyer’s introduction of D-potencies gained acceptance not only by the critical homeopaths. It was not until the end of World War II, when remedies in C- and Q-potencies were increasingly used again.
It has to be mentionand that patients and lay practicioners (as famous Clemens von Boenninghausen and Georg Heinrich Gottlieb Jahr) considerably supported homeopathy. Among this group of fans there were priests, landowners, merchants and well educated citizens. Laymen have started numerous homeopathic clubs on the local level. Important supporters of homeopathy were found among the noble persons of these days. They increasingly started to enjoy homeopathic treatment and spread the good news even further so that the number of followers increased more and more. In those days it was very welcome that homeopathy was not a part of conventional medicine. This made it possible that homeopathy could have been practiced by by non-medical people who were the firm base in the process of the establishment of homeopathy.
While the first homeopaths departed, conventional medicine, as we know it, more obviously started to develop. The new generation of homeopaths seeked for contact (the link) to the school of medicine. The new focus was oriented more towards diesease rather than symptoms.
In Koethen, Arthur Lutze opened His sanatorium (claiming to treat 35.000 patients/year) which might not be exaggerated. He was really talented in promoting homeopathy, not leaving out the commercial side of view.
The development of homeopathy until 1926 can be summarized with the achievement of creating a homeopathic pharmacopoeia and with the growth of the homeopathic pharmaceutical industry (the first to be mentioned: Willmar Schwabe, famous for careful and conscientious work, with up to 2.500 branches worldwide). Now conventional medicine and homeopathy succeeded in getting closer in some aspects. All of the evolutionary processes resulted in the amazing fact, that in 1933, there were not less than 444 lay societies known to be of service to the many thousands of their members.
In 1871, during the period of the German Empire, nationwide, a law has been established including one paragraph saying, that whoever thinks of himself of being suited well enough, will be permitted to offer medical treatments regardless the education taken. For obvious reasons this liberal law got more and more restricted for the next years to come, leading to a better development of conventional medicine and of homeopathy as being practiced by physicians.