Samuel Hahnemann, Founder of Homeopathy
The history of Homeopathy begins with its founder, Samuel Hahnemann. He was born in Meissen, Germany in 1755, the second child of a famous porcelain painter. A thin, delicate and highly intelligent child, Samuel did not enjoy robust health during childhood. He showed an early interest and capacity for the study of languages as well as the study of botany. His upper middle class family life was shattered by the outbreak of the Seven Years War (1756-1763) which caused the collapse of the famous porcelain trade in Meissen and forced young Samuel to interrupt his early education and take menial jobs to support his family. His early teachers noticed his great intellectual capacity and taught him despite his family’s inability to pay for his studies. He entered the Prince’s School in 1771, after his father pleaded with Frederick, Archduke of Saxony for his son’s admission.
He excelled at his studies and later entered the University of Leipzig in 1775 to Study medicine. He maintained a meager existence at the university by teaching German and English and by translating Greek and English texts into German. He was a loner, and preferred to acquire his knowledge from medical texts rather than attending lectures. Disappointed by the lack of intellectual stimulation and the lack of practical clinical experience at Leipzig, Hahnemann left for Vienna in 1776. Vienna, the capital of the Hapsburg Empire was a center of the arts, music, and learning and it was during this time that Mozart gave several public recitals. There Hahnemann worked under Dr. Quarin, senior physician of the Brothers of Mercy Hospital in Leopoldstadt, a suburb of Vienna. Dr. Quarin was the personal physician to Empress Maria Theresa, ruler of the Hapsburg Empire and young Hahnemann was allowed to accompany the senior doctor in attending his rich and famous patients. Hahnemann was later introduced to the wealthy Baron Samuel von Brukenthal who gave Hahnemann a two year appointment as his librarian. During this period he enriched his study of chemistry and botany and furthered his already extensive knowledge of literature and foreign languages. He left his benefactor to complete his medical studies at the University of Erlangen in Bavaria. In 1779, at the age of twenty-four, Hahnemann was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine.
Hahnemann established his first practice in 1780 in the mining town of Hettstedt. It lasted all of nine months before he moved on to the town of Dessau. During this period the seeds of his philosophical rebellion were planted. The current therapies of bloodletting, purging, puking and the administration of heroic doses of harsh drugs were barbaric and inhumane to Hahnemann. He was more interested in the study of the newly emerging science of chemistry and in writing articles for medical journals. In 1782, while in Dessau he married the pharmacist’s stepdaughter, Johanna Henrietta Leopoldine Kuchler, who would remain his constant companion for the next 48 years. During the years 1782 to 1805 Hahnemann moved his family no less than twenty times, sometimes spending only months in a town before moving to the next. This was a highly unusual and dangerous undertaking considering the risk to his family from thieves who preyed upon travelers in those days. His wife bore him nine children and he barely managed to feed them by the intermittent practice of medicine, translating medical texts, and for one year managing an insane asylum. During this time he also wrote some original articles on chemistry, the distillation of liquor, diet, hygiene, children’s health, and critiques of current modes of therapy. He maintained a small medical practice and for a period was the Medical Officer of Health for the city of Dresden where he supervised physicians, midwives, and surgeons.