Homeopathy Papers

The Life of Wilhelm Fleischmann,MD – 1798-1868

An account of the life of the extraordinary homeopathic physician, Dr. Wilhelm Fleischmann.

 Excerpted from The Pioneers of Homeopathy – Thomas Lindsley Bradford, M. D.,     

In 1860 he was decorated with the Order of Franz Joseph by the Emperor of Austria; he was honored by the Pope in the bestowal of the Order of Gregory, and received tokens of distinction from Bavaria, Saxony and Prussia.”

On the 23d of November, 1868, Dr. Wilhelm Fleischmann MD died at Vienna, from inflammation of the lungs, in his 70th year. He was an Austrian orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy. He was Primarius of the Hospital of the Grey Sisters in Gumpendorf, Knight of the Imperial Order of Francis Joseph, of the Papal Order of Gregory, of the Royal Bavarian Order of Michael, of the Royal Saxon Order of Albrecht, of the Royal Prussian Kronen Order, of the Order of Ludwig in Lucca, member of College of Physicians in Vienna, and of the Central Union of Homoeopathic Physicians of Germany and of several other learned societies.

The history of the life of Dr. Fleischmann is also the history of the Gumpendorf Hospital of Vienna. In the year 1819, the practice of Homoeopathy was forbidden throughout the Austrian Empire at the suggestion of Stifft, the physician to the emperor.  It is due to Fleischmann that this unjust restriction was removed.  Dr. George Schmid was the first homoeopathic physician in charge of the hospital of the Sisters of Charity at Gumpendorf, a suburb of Vienna. Dr. Schmid took charge when Homoeopathy was first introduced into the hospital in July, 1833. In January, 1835, Dr. Fleischmann succeeded him. The treatment had been partly homoeopathic and in part allopathic. Dr. Fleischmann  says:

“In January, 1835, the management of the hospital was committed to me, and at the very outset I got rid of all other drugs, for I wished rather that to the system should be given a decided trial in my hands than that the result should be ambiguous from my mode of treatment. I treated all patients without exception homoeopathically. When the visitation of cholera reappeared in 1836, I reported the happy issue of my treatment to the Government, and the minister. Count Kolowrat, who is ever  forward to advance and protect whatever is good and useful, graciously took up the matter, and very soon afterwards his Majesty issued an order cancelling the statute which forbade the  practice of Homoeopathy.”

This hospital stands in the centre of an unhealthy suburb, but is conducted with good hygienic care. It contains fifty four beds; the nursing is conducted by the Sisters of Charity of the Order of St. Vincent de Paul. There is also a large dispensary. For thirty three years Dr. Fleischmann was the active physician of this hospital. In its wards Homoeopathy has been practically studied by physicians from England, France, Italy, Germany, and America. It was one of the things for a homoeopathic student to do to visit the homoeopathic hospital of Fleischmann at Vienna.

In an address delivered by Dr. Fleischmann in 1855, he tells the story of his introduction to the hospital. (See Brit. Jour.  Horn., vol. 1 4-, p. 2 J ).  With Drs. Hampe, Watzke and Wurmb, Dr. Fleischmann was an editor of the Oestrerreiche Zeitschrift fi’ir Hombopathie, the organ of the Vienna Provers’ Union, of which he was also an early member. He was very greatly respected by his many friends. In 1860 he was decorated with the cross of the Franz Joseph Order of Knighthood by the Emperor of Austria.  From the Pope he received the Order of Gregory, and other similar distinctions of Bavarian, Saxon, and Prussian origin. He was a  member of the College of Physicians of Vienna, of the Central  Society of German Homoeopathic Physicians, corresponding  member of the British Homoeopathic Society, and of many other homoeopathic societies.  For many years he had suffered from attacks of gout. His thoughts were first turned to Homoeopathy by being cured of an attack of sciatica.

Another writer says that he was led to write to Hahnemann regarding the matter, and that Hahnemann advised him to compare his symptoms with those produced by the medicines whose effects were to be found in the Materia Medica Pura, and mentioned several remedies, adding that he would probably find the similimum amongst them. This he did and was cured

A writer in the British Journal of Homoeopathy, for January, 1869, says: Wherever Homoeopathy has penetrated the name of Fleischmann is a household word. His connection with the Hospital of the Sisters of Mercy, at Vienna, at the time of the outbreak of cholera in that city, in 1836, gave him an opportunity of showing the success of the homoeopathic treatment of that disease, which proved to be so much greater than that of the ordinary method, that from that date Homoeopathy obtained a firm footing in the Austrian states.

Dr. Fleischmann maintained his connection with the Gumpendorf Hospital to the last, and he had the satisfaction of seeing two more hospitals in Vienna placed under the care of homoeopathic physicians, the governors of these hospitals being led to do this in consequence of the success attending Fleischmann’s treatment. Many British practitioners, both homoeopathic and allopathic, have followed with  diligence the treatment of the distinguished physician, and attended his daily rounds in the neat and quiet hospital over which he presided. These gentlemen were all received by him with a kind of gruff courtesy. Though laconic of speech he was always perfectly polite and would submit to be questioned on points of his practice by his inquisitive and often hostile visitors, with perfect equanimity.

Rapou says that when the cholera came they received at the Gumpendorf Hospital 732 cases; 488 recovered, 244 died; a mor-  tality of 33 per cent., while the reported mortality of the Allopaths was 70 per cent. This result was very much less than that  obtained by the Homoeopaths of Bohemia and Hungary, and was to be attributed to the inexperience of Fleischmann, who had  not treated the epidemic of 1832, and who had but a short time been practicing Homoeopathy. This success resulted in the annulment of the decree of 1819 forbidding Homoeopathy in Austria. Many allopathic physicians followed the results of the treatment, among whom was the State Physician, Knoltz, who expressed satisfaction at the good results.  Fleischmann holds a place between the exact Homoeopaths and the reformers.

During my stay in Vienna I found that the hospital at Gumpendorf had already acquired a certain celebrity in the treatment of pulmonary afflictions. At the clinic many young doctors attended solely on account of the reputation of Fleischmann, who had made such a success of this sort of malady. In 1840, out of fifty cases of pneumonia there were but two deaths. In 1841, out of thirty-seven cases, all recovered.   Rapou says:

“In 1843 there was formed at Vienna, under the direction of Fleischmann, a society exclusively for the study of remedies. It was composed of about thirty members, many of them young physicians visiting Gumpendorf.  Each received an unknown substance which he was to take in regular doses, noting all the symptoms produced. The results were inserted in the journal of the society.”

Dr. Wm. Tod Helmuth thus writes in his Western Horn.  Observer, February, 1869:

…Among the services rendered to Homoeopathy by Dr. Fleischmann were the removal of the restrictions laid upon the practice in 1819 by the Austrian Empire, and in 1835 the thorough introduction of homoeopathic principles into the hospital of the Sisters of Charity at Gumpendorf.  In 1836 he made his celebrated report upon the treatment of cholera.  For thirty three years Dr. Fleischmann has been the physician to this hospital, and has not only endeared himself both to patients, nurses and all connected with the charity, but has made it a school where many of our most eminent men have  acquired knowledge of the principles and practice of Homoeopathy. He also was one of a commission appointed by the Imperial Government to inquire into the propriety of homoeopathic physicians dispensing their own medicines, and was successful in obtaining the desired privilege.

About the author

Thomas Lindsley Bradford

Dr Thomas Lindsley Bradford (1847-1918)

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