Samuel Hahnemann was a German physician who founded the system of alternative medicine called homeopathy. A qualified medical doctor, he was disturbed by several common medical practices of the era like bloodletting and purging which he believed worsened the symptoms of patients instead of treating them. So feeling the need for an alternative method of therapeutics, he developed the system of healing which he named homeopathy. Born as the son of a porcelain painter, young Samuel ventured into career paths very different from his father’s. He was proficient in a number of languages including English, French, Italian, Greek and Latin, and was also blessed with a deep interest in biological science. He embarked on a career as a translator and teacher of languages. In addition to this he also studied medicine at Leipzig and moved to Vienna to further his medical studies. He eventually graduated as an M.D. from the University of Erlangen and began practicing. However, he became disillusioned with the medical fraternity very soon and was disturbed by several practices adopted by the physicians of that time. This propelled him to develop homeopathy as a system of alternative medicine. A prolific writer, he also wrote a number of books, essays, and letters on the homeopathic method.
Childhood & Early Life
Samuel Hahnemann was born on 10 April 1755, in Meissen, Electorate of Saxony, to Christian Gottfried Hahnemann and his wife Johanna Christiana as their third child. His father was a painter and designer of porcelain.
Samuel was a good student and performed well at school. An intelligent and curious boy, he developed a special interest in languages and became proficient in a number of languages, including English, French, Italian, Greek and Latin.
He was interested in studying medicine but this proved to be a challenge given his family’s humble financial standing. Nonetheless, he managed to study medicine for two years at the University of Leipzig starting from 1775 even though the clinical facilities were not great.
During this time he earned his living by working as a translator and teacher of languages. Already proficient in a number of languages, he now gained knowledge in Arabic, Syriac, Chaldaic and Hebrew as well.
He then moved to Vienna in Austria to further his education. He studied and practiced at the hospital of Brothers of Mercy where the prominent physician Dr. Von Quarin took him under his wing and mentored him. Throughout his medical studies, Hahnemann struggled with financial issues.
He eventually completed his M.D. from the Erlangen University in 1779. His thesis was titled ‘A Dissertation on the Causes and Treatment of Cramps.’
Samuel Hahnemann found appointment as a village doctor in 1781 in Mansfeld, Saxony. Over the ensuing years he practiced at a few more places and settled in Dresden in 1784 before moving to Leipzig in 1789.
During that era, medical practice was fraught with superstitions and illogical methods of treatment. This greatly disturbed the young doctor who soon became disillusioned with his profession. He believed that the common modes of treatment like purgatives, bloodletting, emetics, etc. caused more harm than good to the patients. Thus he abandoned his medical practice.
After giving up his practice, he began working as a translator of scientific and medical textbooks. In 1790, while translating William Cullen's ‘A Treatise on the Materia Medica’ into German, he was dissatisfied with the book’s explanation of why the Peruvian bark (Cinchona) is useful in treating malaria.
This prompted Samuel Hahnemann to conduct his own experiments using Cinchona. He took repeated doses of Peruvian bark himself which led him to suffer from fever, chills and other symptoms similar to malaria. He thus concluded that Cinchona was useful for treating malaria as it caused symptoms similar to those of the disease it was treating.
The experiments led him to the observation that “similia similibus curantur” (“likes are cured by likes”). He thus postulated that diseases are cured by those drugs that produce in healthy persons symptoms similar to the diseases.
After conducting further experiments to prove his theory, he published his principles in a paper in 1796. Over the following years he published several other essays on the topic and in 1810 published ‘The Organon of the Healing Art’, in which he laid out the doctrine of his ideas of a system of alternative medicine which he named “Homeopathy.”
In 1811, he was given a professorship at the University of Leipzig. Between 1811 and 1821, he published six volumes of his ‘Doctrine of Pure Medicine.’
In 1821, he moved to Köthen where he was appointed as a physician to Duke Ferdinand of Anhalt-Köthen. There he achieved much success in his practice and he continued further research on homeopathy. In 1828, he published his work ‘Chronic Diseases’ in five volumes.
He moved to Paris, France, in 1835 where he spent the rest of his life.
Samuel Hahnemann is best known as the founder of homeopathy, a system of alternative medicine that is based on the belief that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people.
Personal Life & Legacy
Samuel Hahnemann married Johanna Henriette Kuchler in 1782. Theirs was a happy marriage that produced 11 children.
Johanna died in 1830 after 48 years of marriage. Shortly after, he met a French woman, Marie Mélanie d'Hervilly, and moved to Paris with her. They got married in 1835. He was 80 and Marie 35 at the time of their marriage.
He died on 2 July 1843, at the age of 88.
The Hahnemann University Hospital, a teaching hospital in Philadelphia established in 1885, is named in his honor.
Source: Article Title- Samuel Hahnemann Biography
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Last Updated- April 01, 2019