Dr Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843)
26 June 2020 (online)
Reminiscence of Dr Hahnemann always starts by talking about his being Father of Homoeopathy. Apart from this, there are three things intimately associated with Hahnemann's name: Meissen porcelain, the Albrecht Castle at Meissen and the Prince's School of the town. Dr Hahnemann was born around midnight on 10th April 1755 as the third child of Johanna Christiana Spiess and Christian Gottfried Hahnemann, porcelain painter, who worked at a factory established at Albrecht Castle at Meissen. Hahnemann had great interest in studies, excelling both in languages and science. As a boy he had often been obliged to hide himself to be with his books, made a candlestick out of clay so that he may read and learn in his hiding place at night.
His earliest school was Prince's Town School of Meissen. Magister Muller, the rector of the school, loved Hahnemann as his own child and taught him ancient languages. He left the school in Easter 1775 with a dissertation in Latin on ‘The Wonderful Construction of Human Hand’ and went to Leipzig with twenty thalers and his teachings of father ‘to act and to live without pretence or show’, for his support to study medicine. Later, he went to Vienna in 1777 in search of practical side of medicine, where he met the great genius, who was not only his teacher but also became his friend, Dr Von Quarin in the hospital of the Brothers of Mercy in Leopoldstadt. After 9 months of stay in Vienna, he was invited by Governor of Transylvania, Baron von Bruckenthal, to Hermanstadt, as his family physician and custodian of his library and valuable collection of coins from 1777 to 1779. On 10th August 1779, he got M.D. from Erlangen University, where he submitted his thesis titled, ‘A Consideration of Etiology and therapeutics of Spasmodic Affections’. He was the first man to call blood the ‘Fluid of Life’ and to forbid the exsanguinating procedure in disease. He started his career as a practising physician in a small town of Hettstadt. After 9 months of his stay, he departed for Dessau, where he focused more on mining technology and chemistry. He turned his attention to the exciting developments in the fields of chemistry. Dr Hahnemann's interest in acquiring knowledge and fascination for chemistry brought him in contact with Haseler's pharmacy, where he became acquainted with Henriette Leopoldine Kuchler. At the end of the year 1781, due to his impending marriage he accepted the post of medical officer in Gommern, near Magdeburg, the city which had no doctors from a long time. In leisure time, he continued his study of chemistry. His first medical essay was published during this period in two parts in the journal Medical Observations. After a year of bachelor existence, he returned back to Dessau married Johanna Henriette Leopoldine Kuchler on 17th November 1782 and he began enjoying his life with love and companionship of Johanna. In 1783, their first child, a daughter whom they named Henrietta was born. In Dessau, he employed free time in writing original articles.
The first of his important works, his original medical essay, was published in Leipzig in 1784. This essay titled, ‘Directions for curing old sores and indolent ulcers’, demonstrated his growing enchantment with his contemporary medical practice. It also contained extensive references to the need for hygiene, exercise and open air. Two years later, Hahnemann was blessed with a baby boy, Friedrich, who later became the source of disappointment in his adult life. During his stay in Dresden, between 1785 and 1789, he published more than 2,200 printed pages, including translations, original works and essays. He also wrote nine articles on chemistry and medicines during this period. Then, followed two full medical works: On Poisoning by Arsenic—Its Treatment and Forensic Detection and Instructions for Surgeons on Venereal Diseases, both published in Leipzig. A hint of his growing conviction that remedies should be prescribed in high dilution was given in his article, ‘An Unusually Strong Remedy for Checking Putrefaction’, published in 1788. He was the first person who completely disagreed with polypharmacy and advised single remedy at a time. In 1789, he left Dresden and moved to Leipzig with his family. Here, in his first volume of ‘The Friend of Health’, he counselled public hygiene and protested against prejudices, opinions and practices of his medical colleagues. He translated the second edition of 1,170-page book, ‘A Treatise on Materia Medica’ by Dr William Cullen. The translation established the first milestone on the road of development of new method of treatment, Homoeopathy. Dr Hahnemann succumbed to the temptation to experiment with cinchona bark, which went down the history is famously known as ‘Peruvian Bark experiment’. He recorded that it acts because it can produce symptoms similar to those of intermittent fever and not due to its tonic effect on stomach. Subsequently, Hahnemann translated and wrote several essays with the most significant being ‘Essay on a New Principle for Ascertaining the Curative Power of Drugs and Some Examinations of Previous Principles’, in 1796. This year is also considered as the birth year of homoeopathy. Dr Hahnemann introduced an entirely new aspect to psychiatry by treating Klockenbring, a man of high education and holding an eminent position under the Hanoverian government, for his insanity with friendliness and humanity combined with firmness. He also discovered that home treatment is not suitable for all cases of insanity. Later he published short popular books like ‘Handbook for mothers’, discussing hygienic counsels.
In 1801, he published ‘Cure and Prevention of Scarlet Fever’, mentioning about the nature of scarlet fever, and his experiences in treating the disease during an outbreak in Konigslutter. Hahnemann's family soon settled happily in Torgau, where he published 19 books and essays between 1805 and 1811, including the first edition of his greatest work, ‘Organon of Rational Medicine’. In the medical field, he published, ‘Aesculapius in the Balance’ in 1805 and ‘Medicine of Experience’ in 1806. In 1805, he published his first important book on provings titled, ‘Fragmenta de viribus Medicamentorum Positivis Sive in Sano Corpore Humano Observatis’, which consists of symptoms produced by drugs on the healthy human body. In 1810, Arnold of Dresden published the first edition of Hahnemann's Organon der Rationellen Heilkunde. It had five German editions in his lifetime and sixth after his death. His painstaking and laborious works of proving homoeopathic medicines were published in Materia Medica Pura, in six parts between 1811 and 1821. Hahnemann left the city for Koethen in June 1821. Hahnemann's last great work, Chronic Diseases: Their Peculiar Nature and Their Homoepathic Cure, was published in Dresden in 1828. In this, he also mentioned about the philosophy of homoeopathy and administration of the remedies and the increasing effects of higher potencies.
On 31st March 1830, Henriette Leopoldine Kuchler breathed her last due to bronchial catarrh, after having been Hahnemann's wife for nearly 48 years. In 1831, between June and October, Hahnemann wrote four essays on cholera and its homoeopathic treatment. He recommended pure, undiluted spirit of Camphor to be used as a prophylactic and as a treatment in very early stages. He also laid special emphasis on the cleanliness, ventilation and disinfection of rooms. On 8th October 1834, Mademoiselle Marie Melanie d'Hervilly, consulted Dr Hahnemann about her health. Gradually, their relationship grew stronger and both got married in Koethen on 18th January 1835. In the same year on 10th April, he was elected as Honorary Member of the North American Academy of Homoeopathy at Allentown, Pennsylvania. Later, he moved to Paris and was granted the right to practise. His arrival was greeted with great rejoicing by homoeopathic fraternity in France. He followed the principle of ‘no cure, no fee’. He was in constant touch with his friends, Dr Hering in Philadelphia and Dr Quin in London.
Few days after his 88th birthday, Dr Hahnemann contracted bronchial catarrh. He first treated himself and later contacted other doctors. He was aware that his last days are near, he expressed his wish that the inscription on his grave should read Non inutiliz vixi (I have not lived in vain). He breathed his last in Paris on 2nd July 1843 at 5 o'clock in the morning at the age of 88 years. Dr Jahr certified officially the death of Hahnemann next day with Dr Croserio. Madame Melanie ordered Dr Gannal to perform the embalming and requested permission from police to keep embalmed body at home for 14 to 20 days. She made no public announcement of his death and did not disclose about his funeral arrangements nor she invited anyone to attend it. First burial of Dr Hahnemann took place at Cemetry of Montemarte hill, Paris, France on 11th July 1843. This grave was neglected and forgotten for long. Nothing was done to maintain his semi-desolate grave. Later in 1898, his body was ceremoniously exhumed in the presence of high authorities and reburied on 28th May 1898 at Pere Lachaise Cemetry in Paris, France.
Dr Hahnemann, the man with great vision, had a foresight of microorganisms or germs. He used the word ‘small animalcules’ and ‘innumerable invisible living being’, thus foreshadowed the development of bacteriology. He was the real linguist, master of eight languages, the scientist with innovations far ahead from his time, the pragmatist with an unfailing ability to grasp the massive importance of the duty of the physician and recognising the minute flaws working toward the better way of practising medicine, the visionary who laid the foundation of materia medica, the revolutionary who revolutionised the practice of medicine of his time and the alchemist who was well acquainted in alchemy. This great benefactor of mankind deserves the appreciation and gratitude, and thus his birthday is celebrated globally as the ‘World Homoeopathy Day’.
- 1 Haehl R. Samuel Hahnemann: His Life & Work. Reprint edition. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.; 2003
- 2 Chand DH, Mehra P. History of Medicine & The Contribution of Hahnemann. Second reprint edition. New Delhi: Indian Books & Periodicals Publishers; 2017
- 3 Cook TM. Samuel Hahnemann: The Founder of Homoeopathic Medicine. Northamptonshire: Thorsons Publishers Limited; 1981
- 4 Homoeopathy Forging Ahead. New Delhi: Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy; 2019