Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy

Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) was born in Meißen, Germany, as third son of a local porcelain painter. Despite his modest financial circumstances the father sent to school his talented son, who very soon earned tuition waiver at the princely school of Meißen. He possessed exceptional language skills, so by the age of 12 he was commissioned by principal of the school to teach his colleagues the basics of the Greek language. Later on he mastered several foreign languages besides Greek: Latin, English, Hebrew, Syrian, Arabic, Spanish and French.

At the age of twenty he began to study medicine in Leipzig and continued in Vienna, where he had hope for higher standards of education. He`d been earning a living by giving private lessons, translating medical end chemistry texts. It happened that Baron von Brukenthal, the governor of Transylvania at the time, appointed Hahnemann, who was struggling with financial problems, to be his librarian and family doctor and took him to Sibiu. He lived for a year and nine months there (1777-1779) spending most of his time at the library of the baron, which he carefully organized, and managed to gain a broad knowledge in various sciences and literature, stunning later on the academic world with.

In 1779 he traveled to Erlangen and earned the physician title. Afterwards he practiced medicine in Hettstadt, then Dessau, while he realized that the methods of contemporary medicine altered the health of patients and by no means promoted cure. He hardly criticized in his writings and in his correspondence the so trendy methods of bleeding, starvation or warm baths, the “one size fits all” approach (meaning convenient treatment to all diseases) which was practiced by physicians all over Europe, “since it saved them from all further thinking (the most laborious of all work under the sun)” (footnote in Organon 60 §). His manners were forceful, decisive and even ruthless against those whom he disagreed with. He was deeply religious and of progressive spirit, who considered himself the instrument of God in helping humanity. Before all he had a deep respect of life; his life task was to research the laws of nature and the precise observation. This way he gave up practicing medicine and turned to mineralogy, chemistry and pharmacology, his scientific work gained acknowledgement in the professional spheres. He continued to make translations, though he lived in difficult financial circumstances with his wife and children. Although he did not practice, he continued to have innovative ideas of medicine, which he sought to explore, to learn and to sustain.

He was translating Cullen`s Materia Medica, who dedicated 20 pages to the description of quinine, which is extracted from South American cinchona tree bark and is used to treat malaria. Cullen, professor of University of Edinburgh explained the effectiveness of quinine in this disease with the bitterness of its active ingredient. Hahnemann, who was a true researcher, was not satisfied with this explanation, so he wanted to observe on himself the influence of quinine. He took 4 drahmas (16g) of quinine and recorded precisely his symptoms and these were exactly the same as the symptoms of malaria. Thus, he found that what creates symptoms in a healthy person can cure the same symptoms in diseased people. So this was the moment when he discovered, or reformulated the principle of Homeopathy, namely the Similibus similia curentur. By this experiment it also became clear to him, that for investigating remedies observations should be carried out on healthy people and he called this research the proving. This was in the year 1790 and many more years passed until the 1796 publishing of his first writing, which contains rather theoretical formulations, because he didn`t yet had the opportunity to use it on many patients. Due to his extensive knowledge in toxicology, pharmacology, mineralogy and chemistry and to the enormous observations, which he carried out on healthy people (in the beginning on himself, his family members, close friends and students), he managed to record a comprehensive and detailed picture of almost a hundred homeopathic remedies during his lifetime, which not only did not harm him, but even helped him to lead a long life in good health and clean mental strength up until the end.

In 1805 he settled in Torgau, where he was able to implement in practice, to apply and to develop his new therapeutic system. For his method he had been using the denomination Homeopathy since 1807. He continuously published his insights and results, and his first work presenting the symptoms of 27 remedies which are still used:  Aconite, Arnica, Belladonna, Chamomilla, Nux vomica, Pulsatilla etc. In 1810 he published the „Organon of Rational Art of Healing” in which he formulated the principles of Homeopathy, later he renamed it to „Organon of Healing Art” which he continuously modified and corrected until the final and 6th edition, published post mortem.

Because of the war and deprivation he moved back to Leipzig together with his family (1811), where he tried to teach his method to medical students, but this has not been a great success for him, due to the contrariness of the professors and fellow medical colleagues. He had only few true students, but still could found followers and helpers, so this period proved to be very fruitful, especially regarding the provings. He personally conducted the provings and recorded symptoms. Initially Hahnemann used the mother tincture of soluble remedies and the first decimal potency and for the insoluble he was using the method of trituration and succusing, applying his vast pharmaceutical knowledge. The provers were taking the remedy until symptoms showed, which were then carefully written down, in order of their appearance. These symptoms combined with data known from toxicology gave birth to the "Materia Medica Pura" which was published in 6 volumes between 1811 and 1821. The year 1813 was one of glory to Hahnemann, when the homeopathic successes achieved during the typhus epidemic that swept through Germany silenced for a moment the critics. In January next year he published an article about the possibilities of treatment in typhus and reported the proven clinical effectiveness of Bryonia and Rhus toxicodendron.

Hahnemann prepared himself the homeopathic remedies he used and encouraged homeopaths to do the same, which caused great outrage among the pharmacists of Leipzig, who raised accusations against him for treating with self made medicine (there was a law regarding this issue, for protecting the sick from charlatans). The court later decided to allow Hahnemann to prepare its own remedies under certain circumstances which meant a kind of recognition to the new therapy. Due to being denied the right to prepare remedies, he left Leipzig and moved to Köthen accepting the invitation of Prince Fredrick of becoming his personal physician, where he`d been allowed to practice freely Homeopathy as he desired, on the entire territory of the Principality.

For years he searched, trying to understand the origin of diseases and the process of healing, and as a result in 1828 he published his most important work „The Chronic Diseases, Their Peculiar Nature and Their Homoeopathic Cure” in four volumes. Here he stated the concept of miasms, which completely overthrew the medical world, both the conventional and the homeopathic. By that time he already had many followers; Homeopathy conquered the space: since 1821 in Leipzig a homeopathic journal was appearing 4 times a year, and in 1833 the first homeopathic hospital opened in Leipzig.

In 1830 Hahnemann lost his wife. Five years later, at the age of 80 he married Marie Melanie d'Hervilly, his former patient who was in her thirties, and together they moved to Paris in 1835. In Paris he continued his work, and developed a successful practice. The Parisians were much more susceptible to Homeopathy, his wife proved to be a loyal student and she became an excellent homeopath. In the end stage of his life, Hahnemann gained a very high reputation, he had no more financial problems, but he lived very well, with clear mind until the end. He finished the 6th edition of the Organon and 2nd edition of Chronic Diseases, he implemented the concept of miasms, he used higher potencies (up to C60) and he optimized his method of administering remedies. He died in 1843 and is buried in Paris.

The aphorisms formulated in the Organon are meaningful and contain in-depth advice to every physician.

Organon 1§: “The physician's high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is termed. (…)”

Organon 2§: “The highest ideal of cure is rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of the health, or removal and annihilation of the disease in its whole extent, in the shortest, most reliable, and most harmless way, on easily comprehensible principles.”

Organon 4§: “He (the physician) is likewise a preserver of health if he knows the things that derange health and cause disease, and how to remove them from persons in health.”


Samuel Hahnemann, the Father of Homeopathy

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