Samuel Hahnemann – BIOGRAPHY of Homeopathy’s Founder

However, this was not the effect they had. Hahnemann steadily pursued his course without condescending to notice the attacks of his adversaries, and in 1811 he published the first volume of the Pure Materia Medica, which contained the pathogeneses of the medicines he had been silently testing upon himself and friends, together with the symptoms he had culled from various records of poisoning by the same substances. His earnest with this time purpose of indoctrinating the rising generation of physicians in homeopathy, theoretically and practically; but this plan failing, he resolved to give a course of lectures upon the system to those medical men and students who wished to be instructed in it. Order to be allowed to do this, however, he had to pay a certain sum of money and defend a thesis before the faculty of Medicine. To this regulation we are indebted for that ably essay, De Helleborismo veterum, which no one can read without confessing that Hahnemann treats the subject in a masterly way and displays an amount of acquaintance with the writings of the Greek, Latin, Arabian and other, physicians, from Hippocrates down his own time, that is possessed by few, and a power of philological criticism that has been rarely equaled. This thesis he defended on the 26th of June, 1812, and it drew from his adversaries an unwilling acknowledgement of his learning and genius, and from the impartial and worth Dean of the Faculty a strong expression of admiration. When a candidate defends his thesis, he was what are called opponents among the examiners, who dispute the various opinions preached in the thesis; but the most of Hahnemann’s opponents were schooled such an amiable state of mind by this display of learning, that they hastened to confess they were entirely of his way of thinking, while a few, who wished to say something for form’s sake, merely expressed their dissent from some of Hahnemann’s philological views. This trial, which his enemies had fain hoped would end in an exposure of the ignorance of the shallow Chariton, triumphantly proved the superiority of Hahnemann over his opponents, even on their own territory, and was a brilliant inauguration of the lectures which he forthwith commenced to deliver to a circle of admiring students and Grey headed old doctor, whom the fame of his doctrines and his learning attracted round him. He lectured twice a week, and from among the followers who gathered round him he selected a number to assist him in the labours of proving medicines, which he pursued without intermission. The vast amount of self-sacrifice, devotion, and endurance these labours must have required from him, those only who have attempted to prove medicines can from an idea of.

During his residence in Leipzic, from 1810, to 1821, he from time to time published valuable essays in the literary journal I have already alluded to, one of which was on a deadly from of typhus that broke out in 1814, in consequence of the disturbances caused by the stupendous military operations of that period, more Russia, And he departed one occasion from his usual habit, and wrote a couple of controversial upon the treatment of burns, for which he recommended warm applications in opposition to Professor Dzondi, who had advised the employment of cold water. A second edition of the Organon and five more volumes of Materia Medica appeared during this period, adding at once to his fame and to the perfection if his system, which began to attract the attention of many physicians and immense numbers of the educated and upper classes.

The jealousy of his professional brethren however, led them to incite the privileged guild of apothecaries to play the same game that had proved so successful in expelling Hahnemann from other places, and their machinations were only stayed for a time by the arrival in Leipzic of the celebrated Austrian Field Marshal, Prince Schwarzenberg, who came thither avowedly with the design of placing himself under Hahnemann’s care, as his life was desiderable of by the first practitioners of the old school. At first considerable amendment ensued, but his disease, which was some organic affection of the brain or heart, eventually had a fatal termination.

Of course a cry was now got up that Hahnemann’s method hastened if it did not actually cause the death of illustratious commander, and the apothecaries, taking advantage of the unpopularity which this catastrophe, and the mode in which it was “improved” by his medical brethren, cast upon Hahnemann found now little difficulty in obtaining an injunction against his dispensing his own medicines. Hahnemann could not write prescriptions his own medicine, seeing that the privileged apothecaries did not keep them and could not be trusted with their preparation, as they were his bitterest foes. His practice was therefore gone, and though he was urgently advised to dispense his medicines secretly, yet he had too great a respect for the authority of the law to act contrary to the verdict of those business it was to enforce it, even although he believed that they misinterpreted its spirit. Nothing was left for him therefore but to quit Leipzic, a town which was now endeared to him by many pleasing associations connected with the development of his great reform, and his fatherland Saxony, now offered no place where the most illustrious of its sons could live in peace.

Under these discouraging circumstances the reigning prince of Alhalt Coethen, who was an the tiny capital of his tiny dominions, and according to Coethen Hahnemann proceeded in 1821. It must have been with a heavy heart that he left Leipzic, the goal of his youth’s ambition and scene of his manhood’s triumphs. It must have cost him a pang to leave that dear fatherland, for which he had always sighed in all his wanderings. To exchange the busy commercial and literary capital of northern Germany for the lifeless and dismal little town of a pretty principality was but a sorry exchange indeed; and the deserted ill-paved streets and rude envisions of the provincial town were a poor compensation for the lively and frequented promenades round Leipzic, where he was wont to walk every afternoon with his portly wife and numerous family. Though Leipzic his now the honour of containing his bronze effigies, and thought Leipzic’s magistrates and municipal authorities joined in the inauguration of Hahnemann’s monument in 1851, this will hardly suffice to efface the strain of bigotry and intolerance that attaches to the town and its authorities by their expulsion of the greatest of Leipzic’s citizen’s in 1821.

The favour of the Duke, who appointed him Hofrath and physician in ordinary to his serene person and court, could scarcely make up to Hahnemann for the loss of the disciples whom he used to instruct and the friends who used to assist him in his provings; and his habits which had never been very sociable, now become more than ever retired. After setting at Coethen he seldom crossed the threshold of his door except to visit his patron when he was sick; all the other patients who flocked to Coethen for his advise he saw at his own house, and his only walks were in a little garden at the back of his house, which he used jocularly to observe, though very narrow was infinitely high. Here he daily promenaded for a certain time as regularly as he had done in the pleasant Leipzic alleys, and every fine day he used to take a drive in his carriage into the country. He devoted himself entirely to practice and the development of his system. His amazing industry and perseverance never flagged an instant; he worked incessantly, it might be said. Here he published a third, a fourth, and a fifth edition of his Organon and a second and third edition of his Materia Medica each time with great additions and careful revisions. Here also he wrote many articles for the literary journal before alluded to.

In 1827 he 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 diseases and his discovery of a completely new series of medicaments for their cure, exhorting them to test the reality of his opinions and discoveries in their own practice. The next year the first and seconds volumes of celebrated work on Chromic Diseases, their peculiar nature and homeopathic treatment, appeared. The doctrines peculiar therein inoculated were not received with implicit faith by all his disciples, for whilst some professed to perceive in them a discovery equal if not superior to that of the homeopathic therapeutic law, others were not satisfied that the deductions arrived at were justified by the facts on which they were professedly based. To Samuel Hahnemann’s opponents his doctrine diseases was a fertile and inexhaustible theme for ridicule and obloquey which he as usual paid no attention to, thought his followers had become too numerous that they began to take up the cudgels in their master’s defense, and the medical press of Germany groaned with polemical articles respecting homeopathic from both sides, of more or less ability. Since the year 1822 the homeopathic had a quarterly journal, that contained many able and vigorous articles in support of Hahnemann’s doctrines. A third , a forth , and a fifth volume of the Chronic Diseases, containing extensive and valuable provings of new medicines, successively appeared during the following two years. The volume of these works can scarcely be over-estimated. And they, with the Materia Medica, constitute the inexhaustible treasury on which the homeopathic practitioner draws for the cure and relief of many diseases in which the allopathic appliances are important or hurtful.

On the 10th August, 1829, a large concourse of his disciples and admirers assembled at Coethen, for the purpose of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his reception of the Doctor’s degree, and the dull little town was enlivened for a moment by the festivities of which it was the scene. The same day Hahnemann solemnly found the first Homeopathic Society., under the name of the “Central Society of German Homeopathists,” which exists and flourishes to this day and by whose exertions it was that the bronze statue was last year (1851) erected at Leipzic, as a grateful memento to its illustrious founder.

The success of homeopathic, which now began to spread beyond the limits of German, and to make its was way in other countries of Europe and in America, increased the bitterness and ferocity of the attacks of the partisans of the old school. They at length roused even of forbearance of Hahnemann, who published a pamphlet against his foes entitled “Allopathy; a Warning to all Sick Persons,” which, though undoubtedly a gross caricature of the system, he turns into ridicule, has like all good caricatures, an unmistakable though ludicrous likeness to the original in every feature, which must have rendered its sting all the more pungent.

The same year, 1830, the cholera invaded Germany from the East and on its approach, Samuel Hahnemann, guided by the unerring therapeutic rule he had discovery, at once fixed upon the remedies which should prove specifics for it, and caused directions to be printed, and distributed over the country by thousands so that on its actual invasion the homeopaths and those who had received Hahnemann’s directions were fully prepared for its treatment and prophylaxis, and thus there is no doubt many lives were saved, and many victims rescued from the pestilence. On all sides statements were published, testifying to the immense comparative success that had attended the employment of the means recommended by Samuel Hahnemann, before he had seen or treated a single case. This one fact speak more fore homeopathy, and the truth of the law of nature on which the system is founded, than almost any other I could offer, viz., that Hahnemann, from merely reading a description of one on the most appalling rapid and fatal diseases, could confidently and dogmatically say, such and such a medicine will do good in this stage of the disease; such and such other medicine in that; and that the united experience of hundreds of practitioners in all parts of Europe should bear practical testimony to the accuracy of Hahnemann’s conclusion.

In 1830 Samuel Hahnemann lost his wife, the mother of his numerous family, and the sharer of all the vicissitudes of his eventful life. It has been stated that his good lady had not the sweetest of tempers, and that she was somewhat of a Xantippe to our Socrates; but, as far as I can learn, there is no ground for this accusation. There is no doubt that she was a most affectionate wife and mother; but at the same time a strict disciplinarian, who asserted here supremacy over the domestic affairs and over her husband, in as far as he was part and parcel of the household; that Samuel Hahnemann loved and highly esteemed her we have ample evidence, from many passages in his letters, and from the testimony of his friends.

The death of his partner did not alter in any respect Hahnemann’s mode of life; and his daughter, who had now attained the years of discretion, assumed the office of domestic supervision, vice Mrs. Hahnemann deceased.

In 1835 Mille Melanie d’ Hervilly came to Coethen, succeeded in captivating Hahnemann, them in his eightieth year, by the charms of her youth and beauty, and carried him off in triumph to Paris, where, by her influence with M. Guizot she obtained for him the authorization to practice. This second marriage, which took all his friends by surprise, is certainly a very unexpected denouement in the last act of Hahnemann’s life-drama. We trace with interest the progress of the man of science through his childhood’s innocence, his youth’s studious hours, his manhood’s struggles with adversity, and indefatigable search after truth, until the final triumph and success of the aged philosopher. We note his habits of study, contemplation, and observation of nature; his retired, almost unsocial life; his devotion to the one great aim of his existence. We see him thus engaged up to a period of life exceeding the term of ordinary old age-when suddenly he takes a gay Parisian damsel to wife; the monotonous life of the dull country town and the accustomed seclusion of domestic retirement delight him no longer, and he hurries off to the capital of the beau monde with his youthful and elegant bride. This marriage, which comes upon us so abruptly, produced a total revolution in Samuel Hahnemann’s habits and tastes. In Paris, we find him entertaining company and accepting invitations; frequenting the opera, and partaking moderately of the dissipations of the gay capital, and no longer confining his medical practice to the consultations at his own house, but visiting patients at their residences, like any other practitioner, which he had not done in Germany for more than twenty years previously. He seems to have entered on this novel course of life with great zest; and his new wife, to judge from his letters and the testimony of observers, rendered the latter years of his life extremely happy.

Notwithstanding this extreme change in his habits and occupations, he found time to make many and important additions, work on chronic diseases, of which he brought out a second edition after his removal to Paris, and it is said he was preparing for the press sundry other works of great importance to homoeopathy , which he was dissuaded from publishing by his wife. There is a tradition current among homoeopathists, that Mme. Samuel Hahnemann retains under lock and key, for her own private study doubtless, untold treasures of provings, cases, practical remarks, and new and revised editions of his works, which it would delight the hearts of all his disciples to see given to the world.*

(*Thank to Dr. Haehl’s efforts that lost treasure has been secured. It consists of 54 case-books containing the records of all patients treated by Samuel Hahnemann from 1799 to 1843; four large volumes of some 1500 pages each, alphabetically arranged repertories, none of which had over been published; the sixth edition of Organon completely revised by Samuel Hahnemann till 1842 (since published in 1821 the English translation of this edition by W. Boericke, M. D.) some 1300 letters of physicians from all parts of the world etc.)

Hahnemann survived his migration to Paris eight years and died there full of years and honour, at the age of eighty nine, on the 2nd July, 1843.

He was buried in the cemetery of Montmartre, and his body was attended to the grave by only four of his nearest relatives. We might have wished that a man, who had acted such an important part in the world’s history, had a less meager attendance to his last resting place.

Such is a brief outline of the life and labours of Samuel Hahnemann, whose name, even by the admission of those most wildly opposed to his doctrines, must henceforth form an epoch in the history of medicine, at the founder of a school which has gained more adherents and roused up more assailants, written more books, and exercised a more important influence on the art of medicine, then any school or sect since the days of Galen.

The homoeopathic principle, as a law of therapeutics, is an immutable law of nature, and is altogether independent of any individual; but the homoeopathic system, or the doctrines and technicalities that have been agglomerated round that principle, bears the impress of the personality- the individuality of its author.

While, then, the principle bears the closest inspection, and gains ever more and more upon our belief and conviction the more searchingly we examine it, the systems may naturally be expected to derive some of its characteristic from the peculiar mental constitution of the man who originated it; and hence it is that we find the homoeopathic school, as it is termed, while they how unhesitatingly to the principle and to the logical deduction that flow from it, disputing with Samuel Hahnemann inch the doctrines, tenets, and technicalities which he has accumulated round this principles.

To facilitate our inquires as to what parts of the systems promulgated by Samuel Hahnemann belong to the domain of the unerring laws of nature, what derive a coloring and a bias from the individuality of the author, I think it is of great importance to endeavor to form a just estimate of his character and mental organization, and as I believe the circumstances of his life have exercised a considerable influence on his doctrines and percepts, and have contributed powerfully to the formation of his very remarkable character, I have not hesitated, at the risk of fatiguing you, to employ the time allotted this first lecture to lying before you the sketch of his life just read, and I shall now, with your leave, turn to a consideration of the character and mental constitution of the man.

The most of striking peculiarity of Samuel Hahnemann’s mind was indomitable perseverance in following out the line of control he believed to be the true one, notwithstanding every difficulty and discouragement. This we have seen him as boy persisting in devoting himself to study in spite of the opposition of his rather and poring over his books by the light of his contraband oil, in the primitive lamp of his own construction. In later years we find him eking out the means of his support whilst studying medicines, by teaching others his surreptitiously acquired knowledge, and translating books from various languages, with contents of many of which he could have had little or no sympathy. It is related of him that he set up every alternate night, and, in order to enable himself to do so, acquired that inveterate habit of smoking tobacco, which he continued to indulge in to the last. The means he took to chase away his slumbers in his youth thus become in after pears the only luxury in which he indulged.

This perseverance was conspicuous in the means he adopted of pursuing his studies in the great medical school of Vienna, for which he carefully accumulated as much money as was sufficient to maintain him in that expensive capital for some time, he had not been defrauded of it, and thereby obliged to cut his studies prematurely short, and accept of a post in the remote town of Hermannstadt. As further proofs of his iron perseverance, I have only to remind you of his undeviating efforts to follow up the truth he discovered, and to perfect the system he originated, undeterred for one instant by the hard necessities of poverty, or by the sneers and persecutions of those who should most have befriended and encouraged him his professional brethren. The inveterate and unceasing persecution to which he was subjected from the very commencement of his career and which increased in intensity as he developed his peculiar and novel doctrines, had not the slightest effect in making him relax in the least degree from his endeavors.

His very first work of any importance, that on Syphilis, was, as he himself tells us, the subject of the most outrageous vituperations and abuse. Though this work was published long before he had any idea of homoeopathy, the views he promulgated with reference to the destruction by caustics of the primary sore, and the employment of very small quantities of a new mercurial preparation, running counter as they did to the prevalent notions on the subject, called forth the most unwarrantable abuse from his critics. The same thing happened on the publication of his Essay on a new Principle; and every other step in the progress of his great and beneficent discovery was greeted with similar discouragement. In 1799, the more practical annoyance of the apothecaries persecution was called into play, and the intrigues of his enemies drove him from place to place. With a large and increasing family to provide for, this system of persecution must have been the most painful and annoying to his feelings that could be devised. Wherever he went the espionage of the German Worshipful Company of Apothecaries accompanied him, and the moment he was detected dispensing his own medicines, a complaint was made on the part of that privileged guild that he was interfering with their vested rights. And it was no difficult matter to get evidence against him, for he held it to be indispensable to the right practice of his art to have the command over his own tools, and scorned to conceal that he dispensed his own medicines.

Although all this persecution did not tend to him serve one jot from the line of conduct he had marked out for himself, it no doubt contributed greatly to his adoption of those secluded and recluse habits he was noted for in after-life, to render him intolerant of contradiction and to make him view with suspicion, not with envy, any one who ventured to differ from him by ever so little. Many of the acts which this disposition led him to commit are greatly to be lamented. This he took upon himself to summon to Coethen the Homoeopathic Society he had founded only three years previously, though the place of meeting had been fixed for Leipzic, because he was told that some of his doctrines were opposed by some of its members; and the next year he pronounced the dissolution of the Society on the same grounds. His intolerance for those who differed from him latterly attained to such a height, that he used to say, “He who does not walk on exactly the same line with me, who diverges, if it be but the breadth of straw, to the right or to the left, is an apostate and a traitor, and with him I will have nothing to do.” Dr. Gross, who was one of his most industrious disciples and enjoyed his most perfect intimacy, having lost a child, wrote in the sorrow of a bereaved parent to Hahnemann, and said that his loss had taught him that homoeopathy did not suffice in every case; this gave great offence to Hahnemann, who never forgave Gross ior this remark and never afterwards restored to him to his favour. The hospital that had been established in Leipzic by private subscription was also the scene of Samuel Hahnemann’s intolerant spirit, for he never rested satisfied until the talented and zealous physician, Dr. M. Muller, who had the charge of it, and who performed the duties most efficiently and without payment, but who did not please Hahnemann because he ventured to exercise an independent judgment, was replaced by one entirely disposed to swear in verba magistri, with a salary of 300 thallers per anum. This spirit of intolerance of any difference of opinion on the part of those professing to be his disciples, which showed itself in many different ways, was doubtless partly occasioned by the violent opposition and persecution he had met with, and which had led him to retire as it were within himself, and adopt that almost hermit-life which we have see him leading, whereby his own ideas not being modified or enlarged by the collision of independent minds with own, always bore the distinctive characteristic of his own peculiar mental organization sharply defined, and anything that did nit chime in exactly with his own standard for the time being was looked upon by him with his suspicion and dislike, The reports, insinuations, and misrepresentations of those few persons who retained his intimacy by agreeing with him in everything he said, had also, it would seem, the effect of making his judgments on others more harsh than they would have been had he knows them or suffered them to discuss with him their ideas. It should also be mentioned, his confidence in others had on several occasions received rude shocked, more especially in the case of a young physician of the name of Robbi, who insinuated himself into his intimacy be feigned respect and admiration for his genius, and subsequently turned round and was one of foremost is ridiculing the system of the man for whom he expressed such esteem, This circumstance, which occurred soon after his arrival in Leipzic, no doubt made him suspicious and impatient of the opposition of others. I am of opinion that it would have greatly contributed to the more general adoption of homoeopathy had been more a man of the world, and had he taken into his confidence some of those of his followers who were distinguished for their independence of thought and proficiency in the medical sciences. Homoeopathy would in that case not have presented such a harsh contrast, and stood in such violent antagonism to the old system of medicine; for what was good and true in the latter would have been adopted and amalgamated with the reformed system to its advantage; and the improvements and discoveries in physiology, and chemistry world have probably been made use of by Samuel Hahnemann for the development of his system, had these not proceeded from members of a party that had declared war to the knife against Hahnemann and the new school, ruptured every bond of amity between them. Who can doubt that the inveterate enmity and persecution of the apothecaries its certain amount of influence in giving a bias to Hahnemann’s mind of the subject of the dose, and that it ultimately led to that Procrustean standard for regulating the does which Hahnemann adopted, without sufficient grounds as I believe? Who can doubt that the forced retirement of Hahnemann, and the unfortunate resolution he adopted of never visiting patients, must have latterly confined his practice almost entirely to one class of patients, those affected with chronic diseases, and that had he seen more acute diseases, his practice would have been considerably modified? The persecution of the apothecaries began in 1799. Previous to this time Samuel Hahnemann had given material and palpable doses, as we learn from the cases he published anterior to that date. In 1800 we first meet with anything like infinitesimals, and these only in certain cases. An the opposition of the apothecaries became more violent, and the injury they inflicted on him, pecuniarily and otherwise, more severe, Samuel Hahnemann’s doses became more and more refined and attenuated, until at length we find stating that the mere smelling at a globule is not only sufficient but the best of all methods of administering the remedy; and he adds, with marked emphasis, that this will enable us to dispense entirely with the apothecary’s services. When he got out of the sphere of the apothecaries’ influence and annoyance he entirely altered his mode of giving the remedy and the method he adopted in Paris, which I have elsewhere described, is a much nearer approximation to the method of the dominant school.

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