Samuel Hahnemann: Founder of Homeopathy

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Homeopathy is a holistic approach to treating illness and health issues, using the concept of treating like with like, and based on provings (or testings) of this theory. These ideas were first conceived by Dr Samuel Hahnemann in 1796.

Mr Hahnemann was born in 1755, on the 10th of April. He was born in Meissen in East Germany (what was then Saxony). Samuel Hahnemann was raised during a time of great change, of revolution, enlightenment and reason.

The Industrial Revolution swept through Europe, bringing great advancements in science, philosophy and technology.

Hahnemann was born into a very devout but poor protestant family, the third of five children. His education began with his parents, where he learned to question everything. He was said to be a truly gifted child and when he did go to school, he was not charged the usual fees, due to the teachers recognising his uncommon intelligence.

Samuel was especially gifted in languages, botany, mathematics and geometry. He attended the University of Leipzig, paying his tuition by teaching and translating. There, he studied medicine and chemistry, graduating as a doctor in 1791.

Practising medicine for nine years, during which time he married, he became ill at ease with the methods involved in treating illness, often referring to them as ineffective and cruel. This was a period when purgings, blood letting and prescribing poisonous medication were at their heights.

After these nine years, Mr Hahnemann decided to step away from his practice and immerse himself in study, writing, research and translating.

It was while translating a piece of work by Dr William Cullen, a physician and chemist from Edinburgh, that Hahnemann came across an essay regarding Peruvian bark called Cinchona. In this book, called A Treatise on Materia Medica, Cullen accredited Cinchona’s curing of malaria on its bitterness. Hahnemann was a sceptical man but being a scholar, tested this bark on himself. What he observed was that in a healthy person, the bark mirrored the symptoms of malaria, and the first law of homeopathy was formed.

Taking this idea a step further, Hahnemann was able to theorise that by giving a healthy person a specific substance and observing the symptoms that resulted, that substances healing properties would be revealed. This testing procedure was termed ‘proving’ a cure or remedy.

For the majority of medical practitioners, to treat an illness you gave the patient the opposite medicine for the symptom. If a person suffered from constipation, a laxative would be administered. This is ‘contrary’ medicine. What Hahnemann had discovered was that treating with similars (much like those written by Hippocrates in 470-400BCE) was also very effective. He named this the similia dimilbus curentor, which means ‘let likes be cured with like’.

He classed this as the first law of his system, which he named homeopathy – from the Greek homoios (which means similar) and pathos (suffering/disease). This was laid down in writing in 1796, and for the following six years he carried out many provings before setting up another medical practice based on homeopathy.

Hahnemann carried out more experiments, refining doses and in 1810 he produced The Organon of Rational Medicine.

During the Napoleanic Wars, Hahnemann successfully treated many soldiers and also many sufferers of the Typhus epidemic that ensued. This burgeoned his growing reputation and he became a lecturer at Leipzig University thereafter.

From 1811 to 1821 he published his Materia Medica Pura in six full volumes, and in 1828 he published his Chronic Diseases and Their Homeopathic Cure, a result of continual experimentation and proving.

Hahnemann was also successful in treating the Cholera epidemic that spread through Europe in 1831 and was among the first to advocate cleanliness, disinfection and airing in the fight against this disease.

Leipzig Homeopathic Hospital opened its doors in 1833, and closed them in 1842, due to dissent among the ranks of homeopathic doctors.

Samuel Hahnemann, aged eighty eight, passed away on the 2nd of July 1843. He was buried in Montmarte cemetery but was later exhumed and reburied in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. His legacy is remembered and still practiced today.

 

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