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Dr. Samuel Hahnemann — Dr. Ganka Kroumova

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann

The physician's high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is termed.
-- Samuel Hahnemann, „The Organon of the Healing Art” Aphorism No 1

Foundations of homeopathy as an orderly scientific system were laid by the great German physician and chemist Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann.

He was born on April 10, 1755 in Meissen, Saxony. His father was a skilful painter in the local porcelain factory. From an early age he was educated to develop independence and depth of thinking, as often he was locked in a room and left a task to decide on.

At school Christian won the love and respect of his teachers with his aptitude and hard work. Since his parents were poor people and didn’t have any money for his education, the school headmaster in person allowed him to attend school without paying any tuition fees. At thirteen years of age he was already assigned to teach his classmates in Greek and Jewish. By twenty he had mastered eight languages.

Hahnemann started his medical education in Leipzig, and thereafter he moved to Vienna, where the famous European medical university was located at that time. He made a living as a translator of scientific literature and teacher in foreign languages.

On August 10, 1779 he defended his diploma thesis called: „About the Cause and Treatment of Cramps”, and was awarded the degree Doctor of Medicine and Law of Medical Practice. Two years later Hahnemann married the daughter of a pharmacist from Dessau; of what marriage he had four daughters and one son.

In 1791, thanks to his research in the area of chemistry, he was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences in Meinz. His “Pharmaceutical Lexicon” had become a standard textbook of his time, as later he was commissioned to standardize the German pharmacopoeia. His popularity soon spread beyond the borders of his country. And yet, despite his great success and reputation won in the area medicine and chemistry, he was not satisfied with the drastic vivisection methods of treatment applied by the medical practice at the time: phlebotomy through vein-section, leeches, cups; prescription of preparations such as mercury and other strongly poisonous substances and laxatives. That is why he decided to give up his medical practice, though he did not stop studying health and illnesses.

His many translations in the area of healing art, which Hahnemann continued to make in order to provide for himself and his family, enriched his knowledge to an extent not known to any physician of his generation.

In the process of translating a treatise written by the once famous English professor in medicine William Cullen, he read that the bark of a Peruvian tree (cinchona) was efficient in treating malaria because of its astringency. He was not satisfied with this explanation and decided to take in several times an extract of cinchona no matter he was absolutely healthy at that moment. As a result, Hahnemann felt all the symptoms of malaria without actually getting sick.

This very experiment marked the beginning of a new era in medical treatment. Next years saw a period of research and systematic recording of the results from the tests, which Hahnemann and his fellow scientists performed on themselves, their families and friends by consuming small doses of different substances. The process in which symptoms were experimentally brought forth in healthy individuals as a result of intake of certain substances was called “proving”. Moreover, Hahnemann made a comprehensive list of the occasional toxemias described by different physician in the course of centuries of medical history.

All symptoms caused by these toxemias, as well as the ones manifested during the experiments, were sorted in thick volumes. In many cases sets of symptoms of different illnesses were recognized, considered incurable until then. Then these substances prepared in certain manner as remedies were given to patients with similar complaints and they got healthy.

Sure enough, this idea was not a new one; in the time of Hippocrates, and later of Paracelsus as well, snow was used to treat frostbites, and in case of increased acidity of the stomach – very small amount of salt acid. For example, it was known that intake of extract of the plant thorn-apple may cause and altogether heal some cases of insanity and cramps.

After several years of systematic research and experiments, Hahnemann returned to his medical practice, but already applying homeopathic method of treatment.

In 1810 the first edition of his fundamental work “The Organon of the Healing Art” was published, which underwent six revisions in his lifetime, the last published after his death. In the period 1811-1821 he published six volumes of Materia Medica Pura with 67 homeopathic remedies. In 1821 he moved to Koln where he performed intensive and fruitful medical and educational activities. Patients from all over Europe flocked to him, and his followers constantly increased in number. He continued to improve the healing method developed by him. In 1828 his monumental work “Chronic Diseases” came out of print, which presented a clear and orderly theory of the origin of chronic diseases.

Left alone after the death of his first wife and the weddings of his daughters, he married once again for the French Melanie d’Herville and went to Paris in 1835. There his practice flourished and until his death on July 2, 1843 he was demanded and loved by patients and colleagues.

Hahnemann’s contribution to the development of medical science was enormous. Very unfortunately, though, to the prejudice of mankind, he is still unacknowledged and underestimated by the medical people as a whole.

Hahnemann was the first physician in the world who had carried out clinical tests with health testers to prove the medical effects of different substances and created a system for performance of such clinical experiments with medicinal means.

Hahnemann was the first physician to have created an orderly and integrated theory of the origin and treatment of chronic diseases in man.

Hahnemann was the first physician who realized the fact that illnesses represent a dynamical derangement of health, and therefore treatment meant not only removal of symptoms or diseases, but also recovery of health through specific simulation of the natural defensive mechanisms of the human organism.

He clearly showed that it was proper and more efficient to cure the sick man and not the “disease” by certain schemes of treatment, which did not take into account the individuality of the patient.

Hahnemann was ahead of his time by many centuries. Or perhaps, the modern medical thought has stayed behind by such time? Despite of their simplicity and clearness, his ideas are still difficult to grasp by many people. We will perhaps see one worthy assessment of his work in the years to come.