The story of Frederick Hahnemann has many interesting elements. It gives us a view of Homoeopathy in its very early stages and gives insight into the family life of the Founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. What is known about the fantastic exploits of Dr. Frederick paints a portrait of genius, madness and selfless service to humanity. His use of the homoeopathic principles in extraordinary ways reached legendary proportions among the homoeopaths of his generation.
Frederick Hahnemann (1786-?)
The story of the son of Samuel Hahnemann, Frederick Hahnemann, is one of mystery, madness and genius. Frederick Hahnemann was born in Dresden, Germany on Nov. 30, 1786. He was always an anxiety to his parents due to his poor health. As a child he suffered from a rickets-like disease which left him high chested and caused curvature of the spine. In 1799 the hostility of the apothecaries and physicians drove Hahnemann from Konigslutter. On the road the Hahnemann family met with a terrible road accident in which their large carriage overturned and the entire family was injured. One of the girl’s legs was broken, Frederick's spine was possibly broken (Hering's account) and his younger baby brother died from his injuries.
It seems the combination of Frederick's congenital weakness and possible spinal injury left him a hunchback. Although his frame was weak he had a brilliant mind and mastered many languages and sciences. He passed his degree in medicine in 1810 at the age of 24 and began the practice of the homoeopathic healing arts. In the following year he was chosen by his father to answer the bitter criticism of the first edition of The Organon by Hecker.
As time went on Frederick become more and more eccentric in his appearance and behavior. From 1818 on his letters began to show traces of temporary mental disturbances causing his father to cry in 1819, "My poor son is actually going mad!" Frederick did not cut his hair nor beard, always wore Oriental clothes, did not mix with society, and often withdrew into his own world. He moved to a small town called Wolkenstein in the Erzgebrige where he bought the chemist's shop. In no time he had such a large following that patients sometimes had to wait days for their turn. This mad genius was loved by his patients and despised by his critics. Humphreys gave this following account of Frederick.
"The son began to thrive, had a good run of customers from the better classes. The market-place, in front of his apothecary-shop, was regularly lined with carriages. He cured a girl who had been blind from birth. He asked the girl to look straight into the sun until she could see. She saw the sun and later the father."
This incredible story of the homoeopathic cure of a girl blind from birth with the blinding rays of the sun is most amazing! Frederick seems to have had powerful healing abilities and must have known of his father's teachings on hydrotherapy, magnetism, mesmerism, etc. He investigated the psychology of homoeopathic remedies and he performed heroic provings on the insane so he could understand the treatment of madness. It is assumed that he also used this information to treat those suffering from psychological disorders. His own unique existence as an eccentric genius gave him insights into the disturbed state of those with mental illness.
Hartmann give the following description of the son of Samuel Hahnemann.
"His great intellect, which even his opponents had to acknowledge, he tried to surround with an even larger halo, by favouring a certain kind of charlatanism, which he wrapped round with a mantle of student-boasting, and by means of which he gained an even greater number of followers".
Frederick visited the village of Zschopau and neighboring parts once or twice a week where he was besieged with patients. He would be seen racing down the mountain road in an open four-horse carriage, holding the reins with his small crooked body standing erect, dressed in his old Oriental coat with his long unkempt hair and beard blowing in the wind. The people of the countryside loved their mad genius and stood by him no matter how he acted nor what he said. As Humphreys says. "The multitude hurrahed and hosannad. I know this from an eye witness."
We have another account of Frederick Hahnemann from Bradford's Pioneers of Homeopathy. Humphreys describes the case of a little nine-year-old girl who had been treated by conventional physicians for some two years for dropsy.
"Upon an examination of her case Hahnemann decided that this dropsy was only symptomatic, and that the real affection was a disease of the heart; and that the former would disappear upon the cure of the latter. The application of his first powder entirely relieved her of a pain in her left side which had existed from before the appearance of the dropsy, and which all the medicines she had taken utterly failed to reach."
He gave her very particular directions in reference to her diet, habits, etc. She was to have her own plate, spoon and knife, and on no account was she to use any other. She was not to sit or sleep with an aged person. Her diet was rigidly prescribed in quantity and quality; she was to smell of no flowers, or perfumes, and neither camphor nor acids were to be used about her, and if anyone smoking or chewing tobacco came into the room he was instantly to be expelled.
The treatment appeared successful, as the child seemed to become healthier, but the swelling persisted. The child's mother was very anxious to see the 'bloat go down,' and to her continued entreaties Hahnemann only answered, 'It will do no good.' Finally he yielded to her solicitations, all the while protesting that no benefit would result. He gave a powder, and the old lady declares that while she yet looked the swollen edematous skin became corrugated and in a little time every vestige of it had disappeared.
At the next visit the child was worse. He began earnestly to question the mother in a passionate manner if the minute details of all his directions had been severally complied with. The old lady, irritated by his manner beyond endurance, pettishly replied that she thought it was high time that something more was done besides attending to his whims.
At the mention of this last word the doctor broke into a passion of ungovernable rage. His fury knew no bounds. 'Whim, whim!' he yelled; 'Hah! Hah! You call my doctrine whim! Hah! Hah! Whim! Whim! I will not doctor her more, hah! hah! She will go to the fools and asses, hah! hah! She will die! Whim! Hah! Hah!' yelled he as he stalked back and forth with the language and manner of a lunatic. When excited, as was often the case, he had a passion for throwing in this word 'hah! hah!' between his sentences, and with such violence as to resemble more the barking of a small dog than the voice of a human being.
Finally unable longer to contain himself he seized his hat and rushed from the house into darkness and storm, repeating his 'hah, hah' and 'whim, whim' until the sound was lost in the distance; he made his way to a neighboring house where he hired a person to convey him to the village, some miles distant, that night amid the rain and darkness." The mother instituted a suit against him to reclaim her money, and Hahnemann boarded a boat, never to be seen again."
When a patient did not follow Frederick's advice he was always very upset. In this case it is not exactly clear just what the 'old lady' had done or in what way she may have interfered with Dr. Hahnemann's case. Frederick was worried about giving a new remedy, but at the same time, he did not seem to think the remedy was solely responsible for the sudden decline. Had this woman already begun other treatments? The account is not clear in all these details but it gives a most interesting view of one of Frederick’s more controversial cases. The homoeopathic madman was certainly too much for this particular family, but if they would have trusted his knowledge, he may have been able cure this little girl. One lesson is plain, however, never let the family of the sufferer influence the choice of a remedy. If you can not do what you need to do it is better to leave the case.
The Allopathic Conspiracy against Frederick
All of this fame caused great jealousy and hatred among the orthodox doctors and pharmacists. They hatched a conspiracy to drive the son of Hahnemann out of town in the same manner they drove his father from Leipsig. It was only a matter of time before the local apothecaries and the Royal Collage of Medicine pressed legal charges against Fredrick Hahnemann for dispensing medicine. This was in spite of the fact that F. Hahnemann MD. held a legal doctorate in the state and owned a chemist shop and charged nothing for his remedies. His friends wrote Samuel Hahnemann and asked him to defend his son and a support group was formed. It seems that Frederick could have won the court case as his actions were legal by the letter of the law.
All of this commotion was too much for Frederick's spirit which revolted against the right of any authority to judge him and he told his supporters to "Let them go to the Devil!" He refused to answer the court or have anything to do with the authorities. A fluent stream of colorful words describing the nature of such injustice was quickly followed by the gifting of all his personal property to his wife, his shop to the state, and his sudden disappearance from sight. He had grown up witnessing the persecutions of his father and he was deeply suspicious of any dealings with the establishment. An arrest warrant for contempt of court was issued against the son of the great Hahnemann. At first he fled to Holland but then returned to Hamburg. Soon, Frederick left Germany for England and Scotland, never to return.
Constantine Hering was very interested in getting the books and writings of Frederick Hahnemann so that they could be studied. He asked a colleague who was going to Europe: "If you can get me the books of Frederick Hahnemann when you go to Edinburgh, I will give a feast. Frederick was very talented, but a hunchback and a freak. Went about in Oriental costume, allowing his beard to grow untrimmed and was always spitting"
Although the relationship between Samuel and Frederick was strained at times, Frederick kept in touch with his father until 1828. His father received a letter from his son in England in 1827 which made him very happy. He loved his eccentric son, whom he considered a great healer, and he wished to see him. The Hofrath wrote:
"Lately I have received a letter from my son in England and he says that he will certainly come to see me this year. I look forward to meeting him."
Frederick leaves for America
The above letter is the last time father Hahnemann heard anything from his son. All traces of Frederick disappeared from Europe as he made his way across the Atlantic Ocean to America. It is recorded that Frederick Hahnemann appeared in New York in 1828 in the town of Ludlowville. This story was recorded by Richard Haehl MD.
"That this physician was a German by birth was evident from his accent. He often told people that he was the son of the founder of homeopathy and that he had left his native country in order to avoid the eternal persecutions constantly turned on him."
"The Ludlowville physician is moreover described as an extremely excitable man, who through his peculiar dress and extraordinary behavior involuntarily aroused the suspicion of being mentally deranged and consequently many people were afraid of him. In spite of that he soon acquired a large practice, as the cures he brought about bordered on the miraculous. Quite suddenly he disappeared again from the district and nobody knew whither he had gone"
William Wesselhoeft MD. also recorded a story of Frederick Hahnemann's appearance in Atlantic coast states.
"He [Fredrick Hahnemann] may have been here, in the East. A farmer, somewhere near the Jersey border, described him so accurately that there could scarcely have been left a doubt. A small man, a hunchback, little pills, very precise in making his prescriptions, forbidding things that are injurious to homeopathic treatment, saying; 'If you don't do so and so, as I tell you, I will not come near you again". Gruffly spoken. It must have been Frederick Hahnemann."
Frederick fled the persecutions of Europe to be one of the first homoeopaths in the USA. It seems he left for the western frontier treating all those who were lucky enough to come his way. Like the legendary Johnny Appleseed, Frederick planted the seeds of homoeeopathy wherever his driven spirit took him through the countryside. He lived alone as he did not like the company of people yet he loved to serve humanity. Frederick was gruff, excitable, inspired and proud and did not want to be bothered with the ordinary things of this world. This did not stop him from helping people in the most mysterious of ways.
The Legendary Cholera Doctor of the Old West
In the year 1832/33 there was a great cholera epidemic around St. Louis, Missouri which was spreading in the Mississippi valley. It was ravaging the towns and mining camps and many were dying. During the chaos and death of the epidemic there appeared a mad healer of legendary proportions who led a campaign against the deadly disease. William Wesselhoef continues;
"Again, I read somewhere, that while the cholera was raging in the Mississippi valley, a man dressed in a long Turkish garment, such as Frederick was known to wear, came out of a lead-mine, put a few small globules from a small vial on people's tongues, and cured many of the cholera. He told those who offered to pay him not to give money but to follow him and help nurse and cure the afflicted. He was reported as being small, with a hump on his back. He had a habit of spitting, almost continually, which, on account of his short stature, and by having to raise his face to people when speaking to them, made him a nuisance".
In Bradford's Pioneers Humphreys confirms this story of Frederick Hahnemann." Sometime in 1832-3 when the cholera epidemic was raging in the midwest, a strange individual came from the lead mines at Galena. He was dark-complexioned, a hunchback, and attired in long-flowing robes. He cured several hundred people with medicine he gave them from a small vial. It was the last he was seen. His fate is unknown. When Humphreys described this person to Hering, he was told that it was Hahnemann's long lost son."
Although Frederick was called a misanthrope he always served the greater good. Can you imagine this event in your mind? A cholera epidemic is raging with all the attending deaths, fears and anxieties when a strange hunchback eccentric appears with his box of little homoeopathic pills. The cures begin and the people are given new hope. Dr. Hahnemann organized all those who wished to follow him and they distributed remedies and nursed the sick without cost through the epidemic. Frederick was 49 years old at this time and worked without rest or profit. Once the epidemic was over Frederick disappeared in his usual fashion knowing he had carried out both his earthly and Heavenly Father's work.
From 1828 on Samuel Hahnemann feared that his only son had gone completely insane or died a premature death but he kept his pain to himself. How happy Samuel would have been if he had known that while he was fighting cholera in Europe, his son was saving the lives of the communities of the Mississippi valley, and the frontier regions of America. Although Frederick was weak in body, and at times, troubled in the spirit, he was a master homoeopathic healer. The time and place of his death is not known as we have no record of him after 1833. Perhaps, somewhere in the remote West, the crooked bones of this early homoeopathic genius have found their final resting place. The legend of this eccentric healing artist lives on in all those he helped and those who heard the tales of his fantastic exploits. Perhaps, the new frontier was the only place a wild spirit like Frederick had enough freedom to be himself and serve humanity as only he could.
This ends is the story of Frederick Hahnemann, the son of the Founder of Homeopathy, Christian Samuel Hahnemann, written by David Little out of respect and awe that such miraculous things happen in this troubled world. Maybe Providence really does guide Homoeopathy in its own mysterious way.
Similia Minimus Yours Sincerely, David Little
1. Life of Hering by C. Knerr. B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd. 1992. Pages 83, 120.
2. Samuel Hahnemann, His Life and Work. Richard Haehl. B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd. 1995. Vol 1, page 1 61 and Vol 2 page 188.
3. The quote from Bradford's, Pioneeers of Homoeopathy, courtesy of Homoeopathic historian, Julian Winston.