Homeopathy Papers

Hahnemann in Coethen – Life Under the Patronage of Grand Duke Ferdinand


A vignette of Hahnemann’s life under the protection of Grand Duke Ferdinand

Excerpted From:The Life of Hahnemann – by Thomas Lindsley Bradford, M. D.


The little town of Coethen in the principality of Anhalt was, in Hahnemann’s time, the capital of one of those small, but absolute kingdoms into which Germany was divided. It had its ruler, its own laws and customs, and the Grand Duke Ferdinand,

Hahnemann’s protector, was supreme in his own territory. Hence for the persecuted old reformer it became a veritable haven of rest, within whose borders he and his tenets were unmolested.

Coethen is situated upon the little river Zitau and is twelve miles southwest from Dessau, about ten miles from Halle, and but a short journey from Leipsic. At the time of which we write it contained about 6000 inhabitants. Coethen is not lacking in charms. It lies in a valley through which flows a little river, which gives freshness and beauty to the surrounding country. The streets are large and well laid out. The chateau of the reigning Duke, beyond its splendor, offers nothing remarkable. It is situated in a garden open to the public, where many varieties of rare flowers are cultivated with great care.

The dowager Duchess Julie lives in a pretty house in the midst of gardens, with a lake in which there are swans, and surrounded by all the pleasures of the country. It is situated near the gates of the town from which it is separated by a promenade and a grove. I have said gates of the town because Coethen was formerly a little fortress, and the same old walls, pierced with gates, still remain.

Hahnemann lived in Coethen, entirely devoted to his art, afar from contradictions, and from the discussions that his doctrines had aroused throughout Germany. He was not, however, idle in his isolation. He carried on, with his partisans, a very extended correspondence, answered their objections, aroused the indifferent, admonished his disciples, and punished with reprobation those who transgressed his precepts.  The house in which Hahnemann lived from 1821 to 1835, the time of his sojourn in Coethen, is situated in the Wallstrasse and is now used as a Hahnemann museum. It is of two stories and stands upon the corner of the street.

Over the windows of the front of the house is a tablet on which is inscribed : Here Samuel Hahnemann lived from 1821 to 1835.  In the rear of this house, in Hahnemann’s time, there was a long and paved garden shut in by a grated door. At the end was an arbor covered with vine.

We now reach a very interesting period in the varied life of the venerable reformer. Previous to this he had never known freedom from persecution.  His discoveries had been hailed with ridicule by men who were infinitely beneath him in education and ability. He had been by such men persecuted and forced to make his life one

of wandering and poverty.  He had patiently sought to induce his fellow-physicians to try the new system he had discovered. He had been such a prey to the pettiness of bigotry that his heart had become hardened. Here in this haven of quietness he was destined to spend many years, only closing this to enter the last epoch of his long and tempest-tossed life in the luxurious, happy years at Paris.

Hahnemann lived a quiet and studious life at Coethen, freed from the incessant irritation of the persecutions of his enemies, with nothing to distract his mind. Allowed perfect freedom of opinion and action, he now devoted himself to his important studies. For some time he remained secluded from the world, seldom going out of his house except to visit the Grand Duke professionally. His other patients were obliged to go to him.

He passed much of his time in the arbor in the garden at the back of the house. On every pleasant day he took a drive in his carriage into the neighboring country. It is related of him that one day a disciple was visiting him in this garden, and seeing its small and narrow space, in which at the time he took all his exercise, said: “How small this much talked of garden of yours is, Hofrath.” Hahnemann responded: “Yes, it is narrow, but, (pointing to the heavens) of infinite height.”

Among the State documents preserved in the Archives of the Duchy of Anhalt is the following:  Acts relating to the permission graciously awarded to Dr. Hahnemann, of Leipsic, to settle in this capital, and as a Homoeopathic physician to dispense his own medicines.

“We hereby announce to the Commissioners of the State Administration that we have graciously accorded to Dr. Hahnemann, upon his humble request, permission to settle here as a practicing physician, and to prepare the remedies required for his treatment, and hence the Sections 15, 17 and 18, of the Medical Regulations of 1811, have no application to him. “

“In other respects Dr. Hahnemann is subject to all the rules and regulations of State and police, and to all the regulations of our Medical Direction, and our Commissioners of the State Administration will arrange all that is necessary, especially in regard to the Medical Direction.”

Hahnemann was created Hofrath on May 13, 1822. The title Hofrath signifies Councillor to the Court.  In a letter to Dr. Croserio, dated at Coethen,. February 6, 1835, he signs his name Samuel Hahnemann, counseiller aulique. This is a French rendering of the same title. The term Hofrath is an honorary title given by princes to persons whom they wish to especially distinguish.

On June 1 the following decree was promulgated: “Hofrath Dr. Hahnemann, having practiced the Homeopathic method here for a year, and no cause of death or accident from this method having come to my knowledge, I having, on the contrary, learned that many patients have been relieved and cured, I am confirmed that if Homoeopathy is not more advantageous than Allopathy, it can at all events be considered as on a par with the latter. I therefore consider it my duty as a Ruler to maintain it for suffering humanity, especially for my subjects, and as none of the physicians of the Dukedom has yet adopted the Homoeopathic system, and owing to the great age of Hofrath Dr. Hahnemann, it is to be feared that his strength may not last very much longer, I have resolved to allow his most distinguished disciple. Dr. Theodore Mossdorf, a native of Dresden, to settle in this country as a practicing Homoeopathic physician, and to prepare and dispense the remedies required in his treatment. On condition that Dr. Mossdorf is willing to render all assistance to Hofrath Dr. Hahnemann, he will not only receive a patent of naturalization, but also be admitted as my subject.

Dr. Mossdorf will be exempt from the usual examination, seeing that Homoeopathy is founded on quite different principles from Allopathy, and hence it would be improper to subject a disciple of Homoeopathy to an Allopathic examination, just as it would be improper to ascertain the suitability of a Protestant candidate by making him be examined by a Catholic bishop.

Dr. Mossdorf afterwards married Hahnemann’s youngest daughter Louise. He did not remain long at Coethen, as he and Hahnemann could not agree. He received from the Duke a yearly salary of sixty thalers for medical attendance on the Duke’s servants.

After Hahnemann had been for six months quietly and happily living in Coethen, the petition to the Leipsic authorities in regard to the self dispensing of medicines was answered favorably. On November 30, 1821, a royal decree was promulgated, granting, to the Homoeopathic physician, under certain conditions, the right to dispense. This was a formal recognition of the new method, and although life, now rendered possible in Leipsic, offered many advantages, Hahnemann preferred the exercise of the more perfect liberty in the practice of his art that had been so generously afforded him by the kind hearted Duke at Coethen.

The Leipsic patients of Hahnemann, of whom there were many, consulted him still at Coethen, sending often by express for medicines to that town.

Hahnemann soon became useful to his ducal protector, as is evidenced by the following letter dated March 9, 1824: “Our most serene Duke, who was suffering from a severe nervous attack, is now out of danger, thanks to the successful exertions of Dr. Hahnemann, well known for his new method of curing.”

When the discoverer of Homoeopathy took shelter in a country whose sovereign generously supports every attempt for the improvement of science, he scarcely foresaw that he was destined to save the life of his illustrious patron. Nor did our most gracious Duke imagine that such would be the case when he extended his protection to a noble and oppressed cause for the purpose of delivering it to the impartial judgment of posterity. Feelings of mutual gratitude cemented their union.

Duke Ferdinand and his wife, Julie, were always on the most cordial terms with their illustrious physician. The following letters written when he had been but two years at Coethen will illustrate this.

“My Dear Hofrath Hahnemann:

“While expressing to you my thanks for your medical help this year, and for the past two years, and assuring you of my complete satisfaction, I wish you to accept the enclosed trifle as a slight recompense for your medicines and for your services.

May heaven preserve you in good health for many years to the benefit of suffering humanity. “

Ferdinand, Duke.


“My best thanks, my dear Hofrath, for your kind wishes for my birthday. I owe to your exertions one of the pleasantest gifts on entering on a new year, improved health. I hope to preserve this to your praise and credit.

With sincere pleasure,

Yours very affectionately,

Julie, Duchess of Anhalt.

About the author

Thomas Lindsley Bradford

Dr Thomas Lindsley Bradford (1847-1918)

1 Comment

  • As mentioned in this article by Dr. Bradford, Dr. Hahnemann held the title ‘Hofrath’.
    I would like to add a few words of historical background to the explanations given above, which say: “The title Hofrath signifies Councillor to the Court. In a letter to Dr. Croserio, dated at Coethen,. February 6, 1835, he signs his name Samuel Hahnemann, counseiller aulique. This is a French rendering of the same title. The term Hofrath is an honorary title given by princes to persons whom they wish to especially distinguish.”
    In German States, ‘Hofräthe’ (plural of Hofrath) existed since the 16th century. Holders of the title formed a privileged group giving advices about governmental matters. Soon, Hofräthe were entrusted to cover judicial tasks as well.
    While, in the beginning, only members of this committee were allowed to hold the title ‘Hofrath’, later, higher officers not belonging to this group also were given the same title as a mark of favour. Dr. Samuel Hahnemann became Horfrath in 1822. At these days, this title was given to the most different kinds of persons, often it even could be purchased. So, in the meantime, the title Hofrath had lost much of its initial value. Even more, for civil servants it had become just a subordinate rank or status.
    Not to be misunderstood: The title was given to Hahnemann by the Duke as a privilege. Still, the value should not be rated too high.

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