Biographies of Homeopaths

Baron Clemens Maria Franz von Boenninghausen (1785-1864)

Last modified on December 13th, 2012

Baron Clemens Maria Franz von Boenninghausen (1785-1864)

Baron Clemens Maria Franz von Boenninghausen was born in Netherlands on a family estate of his father. The family traced its lineage through Westphalian and Austrian ancestory, one ancestor having been appointed as Field Marshal by Ferdinand II of Austria in 1632. Since for centuries the family had devoted themselves to military careers the family fortune were but moderate.

His early life was spent in the open, and he entered rather late upon his education, but after once starting, his progress was rapid. He graduated from the Duthch university at Groningen with the degree of Doctor of Civil and Criminal law, and thereafter for several years he filled increasingly influential and ardous positions at the court of Louis Napolean, King of Holland, remaining in the Dutch Civil Service until the resignation of the king in 1810, when Boenninghausen too retired from the Dutch service. In 1812 he married and went to one of the family estates in what later became western Prussia. He devoted much thought in  developing the state agriculturally, and became greatly interested in agriculture and allied sciences, particularly Botany. Through his interest in the development of agricultural resources he came in touch with the most prominent agriculturalists of Germany, and he formed the first agricultural society in the western part of Germany. At the reorganization of the Prussian provinces of Rhineland and Westphalia in 1816 he was offered the position of President of the Provincial Court of Justice for the Westphalia district. As part of these duties he was called to act as the sole Judiacial President in the evaluation of land in the two provinces, because of his technical knowledge of agriculture and land values. This work necessiated much traveling, and later his appointment as one of the General Commissioners kept him traveling throughout the provinces almost constantly.

Boenninghausen made diligent use of these opportunities to study the flora of the provinces and he published a book covering the abundant flora in these districts which called to him the attention of some of the best botanists of Europe; these botanists came into even closer touch with him upon his appointment, at about this time, as Director of the Botanical Garden at Minster. His agricultural and botanical writings brought him the honour of diplomas in many learned societies and two prominent botanists of that day each named a genus of plants after him.

In 1827 he suffered a derangement of health, which had hitherto been excelent. Two of the most celebrated physicians obtainable declared this to be purulent tuberculosis. His health continued to decline until the spring of 1828, when all hope of his recovery was given up. At this time he wrote a farewell letter to his close botanical friend, A. Weihe, M. D., who was the first homeopathic physician in the province of Rhineland and Westphalia, though Boenninghausen was ignorant of the fact, their whole correspondence having touched on botanical, not medical, subjects. Weihe was deeply moved by the news and answered Boenninghausen’s letter immediately, requesting a detailed account of his symptoms and expressing the hope that by means of the newly found curative method he might be able to save a friend whom he valued so highly. In response to the reply which Boenninghausen sent to this letter, Weihe sent some Pulsatilla which Boenninghausen took according to the directions, following also the course of advice which Weihe gave him regarding hygiene measures. Boenninghausen’s recovery was gradual but constant, so that by the end of the summer he wa considered to be cured.

This event bred in Boenninghausen a firm belief in the result of homeopathic treatment, and he looked well into the matter. He became thoroughly interested in the principles of the new method of healing, and did his best to create an interest in Homeopathy among the physicians with whom he came in contact, as he himself was one of the founders of the medical society at Munster; but they were deaf to his arguments, and he himself set out to master the subject through such books as he could procure. In his university days he had some medical lore, although he was not an approved physician. Two of the most aged physicians eventually became interested in the subject of Homeopathy through Boenninghausen’s cures of some of their stubborn cases, and they remained faithful to Homeopathy during the remainder of their lives. By this time Boenninghausen’s fame had spread to France, Holland and America, and he had gained many converts to the new doctrine of healing among physicians in these lands, by correspondence and literary efforts. During this time, not being an approved physician, he had practiced but little but devoted himself o furthering the cause by his literary efforts, which were extended in the effort of making the work of practicing Homeopathy easier. At this time, there was no short way to approach the study of Homeopathy. No repertories, save a brief one in Latin by Samuel Hahnemann himself, had been published as an index to point the way to the indicated homeopathic remedy, and many hours must have been devoted to the study of remedy after remedy before the true picture was seen. Jahr did not publish his first repertory until 1834, and in his fourth edition he writes in the preface in which he gives Boenninghausen credit for the system of evaluating the remedies which he had only then begun to use; this fourth edition was published in 1851.

King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, under date of July 11, 1843, issued to Boenninghausen a document empowering him to parasite medicine without any restraint.

From 1830 Boenninghausen was in close touch with Hahnemann, until the close of Hahnemann’s life, and as long as Boenninghausen lived he kept in close touch with all those practicing Homeopathy. However, his literary work was much hampered by the permission to practice freely, and he did not publish his books as frequently after that event, although he spent much time at that labour. It is interesting to note that his earliest works found instant circulation among those interested in the new doctrine, and almost every practicing Homeopath had Boenninghausen’s work in his library. Boenninghausen’s works in the order of their appearances are listed here:

The Cure of Cholera and its Preventatives – 1831
Repertory of the AntiPsoric Medicines, with a preface by hahnemann – 1832
Summary View of the Chief Sphere of Operation of the Antipsric Remedies and of their Characteristic Peculiarities, as an appendix to their Repertory – 1833
An Attempt at a Homeopathic Therapy of Intermittent fever – 1833
Contributions to a Knowledge of the Peculiarities of the Homeopathic Remedies – 1833
Homeopathic Diet and a Complete Image of a Disease – 1833
Homeopathy, a Manual for the Non-Medical Public – 1834
Repertory of the Medicines which are not Antipsoric – 1835
Attempt at Showing the Relative Kinship of Homeopathic Medicines – 1836
Therapeutic Manual for the Homeopathic Physicians, for the use at the sickbed and in the study of Materia Medica Pura. – 1846
Brief Instructions for the Non-Physicians as to the Prevention and Cure of Cholera – 1849
The Two Sides of the Human Body and Relationships. Homeopathic Studies. – 1853
The Homeopathic Domestic Physician in Brief Therapeutic Diagnosis. An Attempt. – 1860
The Homeopathic Treatment of Whooping Cough in its Various Forms. – 1860
The Aphorisms of Hippocrates, with Notes by a Homeopath. – 1863
Attempt at a Homeopathic Therapy of Intermittents and Other Fevers, especially for would-be Homeopaths. – 1864

After the proclamation empowering him to practice medicine, Boenninghausen founded the society for homeopathic physicians in Westphalia, which flourished for many years under the interest which was roused in the Homeopaths whom Boenninghausen drew about him.

Boenninghausen was a close friend of Adolph Lippe, and also of Caroll Dunham. Both of these men expressed their appreciation of the work Boenninghausen had accomplished, in vol 4 of the American Homeopathic Review. Lippe mentions particularly the repertorial work of Boenninghausen and its accuracy, and one wonders if it was not this which fired his interests in repertorial work, which Lippe’s son brought forth in a complete form.

Of his seven sons the two eldest chose homeopathic medicine as their profession, which was a great joy to him. The elder of these sons practiced for a time in the neighborhood of his boyhood home, later going to Paris where he married the adopted daughter of Hahnemann’s widow. He lived with Madame Hahnemann and her daughter, and had access to Hahnemann’s library and manuscripts.

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