Dr. Samuel Christian Frederic Hahnemann M.D. (1755-1843)
The Founder of Homeopathy
Homeopathy’s roots emerge from the findings, teachings and writings of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Hahnemann graduated from medical school in 1779 and started his own medical practice. He soon began his first homeopathic experiments in 1790, as a result of his disillusionment with such common medical practices of the day as purging, bloodletting, and the use of toxic chemicals. At one point, he gave up his own daily practice to begin working as a chemist while translating medical texts. It was when Hahnemann began working on a project to translate William Cullen’s Materia Medica into German that he began his quest for a better way of providing healthcare using the principles of “Similars.”
“Similia Similibus Curentur”, or “Like Cures Like”. This means that a remedy that produces symptoms in a healthy person will cure those same symptoms when manifested by a person in a diseased state. This law of cure has been verified by millions of homoeopaths all over the world since the time of Hahnemann and is the primary principle of homeopathy.
While working on this project, he became fascinated with a species of South American tree-bark (cinchona) which was being used to treat malaria-induced fever. Hahnemann ingested the bark and discovered that it caused symptoms similar to malaria. He continued his research into “cures” and the idea of “similar suffering,” and began compiling his findings. A homeopath searches for a substance that produces in a healthy person those same symptoms a patient experiences.
Hahnemann discovered the remedial powers of drugs and inert substances such as gold, platinum, silica, vegetable charcoal, lycopodium, etc. By preparing the medicines through potentization, these inert and insoluble substances became soluble in alcohol or water and were charged with medicinal force. He discovered the primary and secondary actions of remedies. The primary action results from the first encounter between the vital force and the external agent, and the secondary action is a result of the vital force’s reaction to the symptoms of that primary encounter. This discovery led him to the curative powers of poisonous substances.
Dr. Hahnemann described the different aspects of ‘acute’ and ‘chronic’ diseases. Acute diseases are transitory; they have a beginning and an end, whereas the chronic diseases are co-existent with life. Either they are present in a manifest or a latent state. From this work came the chronic miasms of Psora, Syphilis, and Sycosis. He cured many insane patients with homeopathy, and became famous for this success.
Dr. Hahnemann was quick to recognize poor hygiene as a contributory cause to the spread of disease. His success with cholera and typhoid fever was in part due to this recognition. Hahnemann also emphasized the importance of nursing, diet, bed rest, and isolation of patients during epidemic diseases. Hahnemann described ‘Noxious’ principles as the precursors of certain disease states.
Three major publications illumine the development of homeopathy. In the Organon of Medicine (revised six times), we see the fundamentals laid out. Materia Medica Pura records the exact symptoms of the remedy provings. In his book, The Chronic Diseases, Their Peculiar Nature and Their Homoeopathic Cure, he showed us how the natural diseases become chronic in nature when suppressed by improper treatment.
The First U.S. Homeopathic School
Students of Hahnemann founded the first homeopathic medical school in the United States in the late 1800’s. It gained recognition because of its success in treating the many disease epidemics rampant at the time — including scarlet fever, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever.
The school’s method of treatment became very popular in the early 1900’s. At that time, there were 22 homeopathic medical schools, 100 homeopathic hospitals and over 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies. Boston University, Stanford University and New York Medical College were among those educational institutions that were teaching homeopathy. However, it was not long after this period of time (in the early 1920’s) that many of the schools closed — mostly due to the decline of homeopathy’s popularity which was greatly effected by the American Medical Association. This was also around the time when modern drug companies began releasing drugs that were easy to administer to patients, a trend that also contributed to the decline of homeopathy.
The Homeopathic Resurgence
Although the United States experienced a dwindling interest in homeopathy in the 20th century, other nations, including countries in Europe and Asia, were experiencing a steady growth of homeopathic teachings and interest.
Today, nearly all French pharmacies sell homeopathic remedies and medicines; and homeopathy has a particularly strong following in Russia, India, Switzerland, Mexico, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, and South America.
A History of Homeopathy in Britain
Homeopathy was introduced into the UK by Dr Frederic Hervey Foster Quin (1799-1878) in the 1830’s. Born and schooled privately in London, Quin was of aristocratic birth, and is widely regarded as the love-child of Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (1758-1824), the Duchess of Devonshire and Sir Valentine Richard Quin, 1st Earl of Dunraven (1752-1824, visit the Dunraven webpage). Along with the
Dukes of Westminster and Marlborough, the Dukes of Devonshire were at that time among the top five richest families in Britain (see Cannadine).
Quin introduced homeopathy into the very highest levels of English society: to Dukes, Counts, Lords, minor Royals and Baronets. That was the world he was at ease with and in which he had moved since birth. As a young man he was a very popular socialite and wit on the fashionable London circuit, a great friend of Charles Dickens, William Thackeray and the Royal portraitist, Sir Edwin Landseer, amongst many others, and no society party, or social gathering, it was said, was complete without him. By nature of a very pleasing disposition, he was a man of great personal charm . He was also latterly one of the regular dining partners of Edward, Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. As a measure of the respect and affection with which he regarded Dr Quin, the Prince sent four empty horse-drawn royal carriages to join the cortege at his funeral: probably the highest honour ever paid by a Royal to a commoner.
The modern British royal devotion to homeopathy also began through Dr Quin.