The Story of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
If you are new to homeopathy, you might want to know where this medical art came from. So let’s begin with the story of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy.
Samuel Hahnemann was born in the German town of Meissen in 1755 to a poor family. His father was a porcelain painter who, although preferred his son not to study so that he could obtain work to help support the family, inspired creative thinking in his son by regularly locking him up in a room and giving him a problem to solve. Despite poverty the young Hahnemann was able to obtain education since his teachers recognized his giftedness and waived his school fees. He entered medical school and obtained his degree in 1779. He was also well trained in chemistry and fluent in at least seven languages.
While working as a medical doctor, Hahnemann was increasingly dissatisfied with current medical practice which often created more damage than help. He particularly objected to cruel and dangerous methods such as bloodletting, applying leeches, and using large doses of poisonous substances like mercury and arsenic. Driven by his conscience, he eventually gave up his medical practice and relied upon chemistry and translations for a living.
While translating a medical text by William Cullen, a noted Scottish physician, Hahnemann was not convinced by Cullen’s explanation that cinchona could cure malaria because of its bitter taste. He questioned why other bitter substances could not cure malaria if Cullen’s explanation was valid. In order to understand the effects of cinchona, Hahnemann tested the drug on himself, and found that the symptoms he developed – chills, weakness, sweats, etc. were very similar to the symptoms of malaria. This observation led him to speculate that the curative effect of cinchona might be explained by this similarity. He continued to test other drugs and the results confirmed his initial thoughts. After years of further experiments and studies, in 1796, Hahnemann promulgated the fundamental principle of homeopathy “like cures like”. That means a substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can be used to cure similar symptoms in a sick person. This concept actually dates back to the medical thoughts of the ancient Greece, but it was Hahnemann who expanded the idea into a complete medical system for the first time.
Hahnemann resumed his medical practice and treated his patients successfully based on this new homeopathic principle. He was a kind, caring physician who strived to seek the most gentle and effective way to permanently restore health of the sick. Over the course of his life, he kept experimenting and improving the medical system that he had developed. He treated thousands of difficult and chronic cases, taught and wrote about homeopathy. Before his death in Paris at the age of 88, homeopathy had already spread throughout Europe and to the United States. His major publication on homeopathic philosophy and treatment, Organon of Medicine, remains today the most important text that every homeopath must read.
To end this very brief introduction to the life of Samuel Hahnemann, I would like to quote the words of Prof. George Vithoulkas on World Homeopathy Day 2020 (10 April):
“ The birth of S. Hahnemann foreshadows the forthcoming rebirth of humanity. ”