HAHNEMANN, SAMUEL, was born on the 10th of April, 1755, at Meissen, in Cur-Saxony, one of the most beautiful regions of Germany. Among the papers left behind him is one, dated August, 1791, which affords us some interesting particulars respecting his family and early youth. He says in substance : "My father, Christian Gottfried Hahnemann, who died four years ago, was a painter in the porcelain manufacture, and had written a little work on that art. He had the soundest ideas on what was to be reckoned good and worthy in man, and had arrived at them by his own independent thought. He sought to implant them in me, and impressed on me, more by action than by words, the great lesson of life, 'to act and to be, not merely to seem.' When a good work was going forward, there, often unobserved, he was sure to be helping hand and heart. Shall I not do likewise ?" His mother's name was Johanna Christian, née Spiess. His parents taught him to read, and perhaps some other rudimentary education, while he was at play.
He passed several years at the Stadtschule, and, at the age of sixteen, began to attend the Fürstenschule of Meissen. He states that he was beloved by his rector, Magister Miller, as if he had been his own son ; that he was permitted by him -on account of the delicacy of his health, induced by over study- to omit some of the regular tasks of the school, and to spend the hours they would have occupied in general reading. He had access to him at all hours of the day, and, strange as it may appear, though thus eminently favored, he was nevertheless a general favorite with the other scholars. His father, he tells us, was opposed to his studies ; he wished him to pursue a calling more in accordance with his own income, and frequently withdrew him from school. He was, however, permitted to remain for eight years at the request of his teachers, who allowed him to attend without requiring the usual fees paid by scholars.
Anecdotes of the youth of most great men are on record, which would have but little interest did we not know that "the boy is father of the man," and that the bias of mind displayed in youth is usually carried out in after years. Washington had his cherry-tree ; Napoleon had his snow-ball matches, and, as the following clearly shows the inherent thirst for knowledge which prevailed in the mind of Hahnemann, we record it.
His parents were very poor, and his father, objecting to the extravagant quantity of oil consumed by his son's nocturnal studies, deprived him of the family lamp, except at stated hours. The youth, however, by exercising his ingenuity, contrived to make a lamp out of clay ; and then persuaded his indulgent mother to supply him with oil out of her stores. This determination to overcome difficulties remained as a characteristic trait during his subsequent career.
The time had now arrived for him to enter upon a university course, and, having obtained the permission of his father, he set out for Leipzig, at Easter, in 1775, with twenty crowns in his pocket ; the last money he ever received from his parent. This little capital would have lasted for a considerable time ; but, like another Gil Blas, he was unfortunately robbed of the greater portion of it.
Thus deprived of the means of existence, he was compelled to support himself at the university by giving lessons and making translations into the German. During the two years of his residence at Leipzig, besides attending lectures the greater part of the day, and giving instruction in the evenings, he translated the following works : "Steadman's Physiological Essays," "Nugent's Essay on Hydrophobia," "Falconer on the Waters of Bath," in two volumes, and "Ball's Modern Practice of Physic," in two volumes. The only time he could devote to these labors was the night, and he was in the habit of sitting up altogether every alternate night. Such indefatigable industry is astonishing and almost unparalleled. Notwithstanding the difficulties in his path, he contrived by his abstemious habits and incredible exertions to save sufficient money to carry him to Vienna, where he studied under Dr. Quarin and practiced in the hospitals for two years, when his necessities compelled him to accept the offer of Baron Von Bruckenthal, Governor of Transylvania, to accompany him to Hermanstadt, as his private physician, librarian, and superintendent of a museum of coins. From Hermanstadt he went to Erlangen, where he took his degree of Doctor of Medicine, on the 10th of August, 1779.
The real history of his life may now be said to commence, as, after leaving Erlangen, he first began the practice of medicine at Hetstadt, a little town among the mountains ; but, that place proving much too circumscribed a sphere of action, he removed to Dessau, where he remained but a short time, being tempted by the offer of a governmental appointment of District Physician, at Gommern. The position was almost a nominal one, and of little importance in his life ; save that in this place he fell in love with Henrietta Bücklerin, whom he married. In 1784, he went to Dresden, where he resided for four years, maintaining himself chiefly by his pen. Here he wrote eighteen treatises, the most remarkable one being on a new salt of mercury, which he called mercurius solubilis ; a name it still retains. We next find him in Leipzig, in 1789, ten years after taking his degree. Here he applied himself with his accustomed energy and industry to the study of medicine, chemistry, mineralogy, and other kindred sciences -besides continuing to make translations from foreign languages- making many important discoveries, which gained for him a high and widely spread reputation among the savans of Europe, and also a membership, of the Leipzig Society of Economical Science, and some others.
In spite of all this, he seems at this time to have been inspired by some innate conception of the future. He was dissatisfied with the existing state of medical science, which he considered as imperfect and more the result of guess-work than of positive knowledge. At length, the truth dawned upon him, and an inkling of the theory, which he subsequently elaborated with so much care, toil, and personal suffering, was revealed to him.
His attention was drawn to the fact that cinchona, or Peruvian bark -a well known remedy in cases of intermittent fever- when taken by persons in sound health, produced a disorder very similar to that disease ; but, as the district where this occurred was malarious, he was not certain that these effects might not have been produced by natural causes. In order to be assured on this point, he tools a quantity of the drug, and was inexpressibly gratified to find himself severely attacked by the disorder. He was now in possession of a tangible fact ; a remedy that would cure a certain disease, would also produce it in a healthy person, and it was certain that the converse was equally true, i. e. that a drug, which produced a certain disease in a healthy body, would cure it in a sick one. But this was only one instance and might be an exception. He therefore set himself to the task of testing a great number of drugs, and with heroic self-sacrifice took them himself, carefully noting the minutest effects produced, and comparing them with the symptoms of well-known diseases. By this means a species of code was established. He likewise induced some of his friends to join him in these tests or provings, and by mutually comparing notes certain positive facts were established. This was the origin of the famous axiom that similia similibus curantur, which, with his theory of infinitesimal doses, was destined to subvert the existing order of things, and so embittered the medical world, as to draw upon its author ridicule, abuse, and even persecution. In this he merely suffered the fate of most discoverers and inventors. Galileo was forced by the inquisition to recant the heresy of his theory, that the earth revolved around the sun ; but on leaving its halls, he muttered, "nevertheless it moves ;" Columbus was ridiculed for believing in the existence of a new world, and the man who first proposed to cross the Atlantic by means of steam was laughed at. There is scarcely less folly in denying the motion of the earth, the existence of a new world, or the passage of the Atlantic by steam, than in refusing to give credence to the manifest truths of the Hahnemannian theory.
To this new system of cure Hahnemann gave the name of Homœopathia, derived from two Greek words, homoios, similar, and pathos, feeling, or suffering.
Seven years afterwards he published his first trial of the application of the new system in Hufeland's journal. The case was one of colicodynia in its severest form, and after trying in vain all the usual remedies, he cured his patient by administering veratrum album, a drug which produces similar symptoms. The next case noticed, also a very remarkable one, was in 1799. The patient was attacked by scarlet fever, and Hahnemann, having observed that children who ate the berries of the belladonna, suffered from eruptions similar to those incident to the disease itself, administered the extract as a remedy with perfect success, and, furthermore, he found that by giving it in proper doses to persons in infected districts, it prevented them from being seized with the disorder. Notwithstanding much opposition, many German physicians tried this preventive ; the result being that out of 3747 persons exposed to the infection only 91 took the disease. If belladonna be fairly tried, it may perhaps prove as successful against scarlet fever, as vaccination has shown itself against small-pox. It was Hahnemann who first recommended aconite in cases of pure inflammatory fevers, with or without eruption ; " and," says a recent writer, " even were we under no other obligation to him, he would, like Jenner, deserve to be ranked among the greatest benefactors of suffering humanity." He spent his whole life, after the age of forty-five, in the utmost self-abnegation, giving up everything, denying himself everything, suffering everything, in the cause of humanity. Mathiolus, of old, poisoned criminals, given up to him by the state ; the modern Magendie poisoned dogs and cut up horses by vivisection ; and some physicians poison their patients by experiments in the interest of science ; but Hahnemann poisoned himself to perfect the system he was promulgating. He has left us a record of no less than one hundred and six medicinal substances with which he had experimented on his own person. And yet, this man has been called "an immoral scoundrel." He has, however, left ten volumes of the "Materia Medica Pura" to disprove so odious a falsehood.
In a letter to Dr. Stapf, not intended for publication, he says : "The man who undertakes and carries through with steadfast resolution to benefit humanity -for, in my case, there could be no other motive, since beyond the miserable sum given me by the booksellers, which was no compensation for a life of such self-sacrifice, I met only with persecution- a man that so lives and works must be good at bottom."
Jean Paul Richter says : "His detractors are more given to detest the man than to read his works."
Such accusations are mere blinds to cover the real causes of animosity against him, which were that, while at Leipzig, he had performed some remarkable cures on persons of eminence, and his promulgation of the theory of minimum doses, which -impressed with his great responsibility- he would only administer when prepared by himself ; the former exciting the jealousy of the medical profession, and the latter touching the pockets of the apothecaries. Amongst them they discovered an obsolete law, forbidding physicians to dispense medicines ; thus obliging Hahnemann, whose conscience would not allow him to intrust the preparation of his remedies to other hands, to relinquish a profitable practice in Leipzig, and repair to Coëthen. The Duke of Anhalt-Coëthen became his friend, giving him full permission to practice as he pleased.
It is not possible in this place to enter into details respecting his great work, which he called the "Organon of Rational Medicine," and with which the profession is already so familiar ; suffice it to say that he incurred much blame for his supposed presumption in endeavoring to assume to himself the position of the Bacon of Medicine. But on reflection this idea will be seen to be erroneous. Bacon introduced a new organ, or instrument, called the "Novum Organum," for the advancement of science, and Hahnemann justly conceived that he had found a new organ for the discovery of specifics, and the results have fully supported his belief. The "Organon," with its four propositions, has ever been, and, doubtless, will continue to be the text-book of the homœopathic profession.
We must also summarily dismiss the "Materia Medica Pura," the value of which is so perfectly appreciated by every homœopathist that, without its aid, all would be at a loss in finding the remedies needed. With its ten volumes it is almost a life study in itself. The "Fragmenta" is a work of less importance, though replete, as is every thing from Hahnemann's pen, with useful information.
In 1805, he published a little work on "The Positive Effects of Medicine," i. e. the effects produced by drugs on a healthy body. This was written in Torgau ; but to make the experiments more perfect, he was compelled to return to Leipzig.
In 1831, the cholera raged with fearful violence in Eastern Europe. Hahnemann suggested the use of camphor as a remedy, which led the way to the trial of the homœopathic system in some of the hospitals of Russia with the most gratifying results. Again, in 1836, when a similar epidemic prevailed in Vienna, Dr. Fleischmann adopted that mode of treatment in the hospital of the Sisters of Charity with even greater success. Mr. Wilde remarks, in connection with this fact, that "on comparing the report made of the treatment of cholera in that hospital, with that of the same epidemic in other hospitals in Vienna, at the same time, it appeared that while two-thirds of those treated by Dr. Fleischmann recovered, two-thirds of those treated by the ordinary methods died."
Hahnemann resided fifteen years at Coëthen, under the protection of the Duke, pursuing one of the most brilliant careers on record. He was constantly perfecting his system by experiments upon himself and his friends, many of them accompanied with extreme suffering. Not only did he enjoy the highest reputation at home, but the fame of his marvelous cures had spread itself throughout the whole of Europe, so that thousands of strangers of the highest rank flocked from abroad to profit by the advice of the illustrious founder of the new school of medicine. Here one of the most romantic marriages we have heard of tools place. Mademoiselle Marie Melonie D'Hervilly-Gohier, a member of one of the most distinguished families in France, was amongst the number of his patients. She was suffering from an apparently incurable pulmonary complaint and disease of the heart ; had consulted almost every physician of eminence in Europe, had tried the climate of Italy, and employed all the ordinary methods of cure without avail, being pronounced by her physicians to be beyond medical aid. Hahnemann effectively mastered the disease in an incredibly short space of time, and, upon her recovery, they were married, when he was in his eightieth year, his wife being some forty-five years his junior. She was charmed with his genius, his manners, and his noble character, and positively adored him till the day of his death. He, on his side, cherished and almost reverenced her ; was never tired of speaking of her devotion and her brilliant talents, and regarded her as his ministering angel, as well he might. Shortly after their marriage, he was persuaded by his wife to remove to Paris ; not to increase his already oppressive popularity ; but, on the contrary, to enjoy that ease and repose his declining years required. They traveled incognito, even his immediate friends and pupils being left in ignorance of their destination. His retreat, however, did not long remain undiscovered, and, thenceforward, his doors were daily besieged by throngs of sufferers, anxious to benefit by the skill of the great innovator. Indeed, such was the pressure upon him that, without the aid of his wife, he could not have borne it. We are indebted to the pen of an American lady, Helen Berkley, for a delightful and graphic picture of their joint lives in Paris. She saw them frequently both in private and during their hours of business.
Madame Hahnemann was a woman in every way worthy of her husband, and possessed of most extraordinary talents. Wealthy in her own right, she refused to participate in her husband's fortune ; a poetess of no mean order, and an artist, whose paintings had been admitted into the galleries of the Louvre. She spoke and wrote fluently five or six languages, and had studied the homœopathic system under her husband to such advantage, that she took almost the entire burden of consultation from his shoulders. She was always present at his receptions, putting questions, receiving replies, and noting minutely the symptoms of every case, merely appealing to Hahnemann in cases of difficulty, when he would reply, "yes, my child," or, "good, my child," and the consultation proceeded ; she was tenderly beloved by her step children, and in short a family so united is rarely to be met with.
At this period he was eighty-four years of age, of a slender and diminutive form. His head was large and beautifully proportioned ; his forehead broad and massive, set off by a few silvery locks ; his eyes deep set, dark, piercing and animated, and his whole appearance indicative of the highest order of genius. He constantly smoked a long pipe with a painted bowl, even during his hours of reception. He read and wrote without the use of spectacles ; his hand-writing was firm and delicate -almost equal to copperplate- and his activity and animation still exhibited some of the traces of youth.
Hahnemann continued to reside in Paris till his death, which happened July 2nd, 1844. In his last illness, he was waited on by his devoted wife with that loving care which tended so much to alleviate his sufferings. Shortly before his death, his wife, by way of imparting some comfort to the invalid, whispered : "Surely some mitigation of suffering is due to you who have alleviated the sufferings of so many." To this he replied with his latest breath "Every man on earth works as God gives him strength, and meets from man with a corresponding reward ; but no man has a claim at the judgment Seat of God. God owes me nothing. I owe him much -yea all."
With these beautiful sentiments on his lips he departed, and the world was deprived of one of the noblest, purest, and grandest characters that have ever ministered to the good of humanity.