MEDICINE IN THE TIME OF HAHNEMANN.
Professor Kussmaul writes in his “Recollections of Youth”: In the beginning of the Nineteenth Century violent unrest prevailed. It is an unpleasant theme on which I must enter, but it cannot be circumvented if I am to describe the medical practice of my young days. He who shudders at it may skip the chapter.
And Professor Puchelt, then teacher of Kussmaul, described the whole desultoriness during the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century in the following words:
We are living (1819) at a time when the most varied systems are amalgamated and combined. The evacuating and irritating, the depleting and strengthening as well as many other opposite methods of treatment stand peacefully side by side in general therapy and reciprocally restrict each other; our learned contemporaries make use of all these systems in the various diseases, although each one may have his own preference.
This confession of desultoriness in medical science strikes us all the more if we review the various systems as they follow each other in the general consideration they had achieved.
L. Hoffmann (1721 to 1807) found that most illness arose from degenerate acid humours which must either be eliminated from the body, or ameliorated by suitable” antiseptic” and “sweetening”remedies.
Stoll (1724-1788) taught that diseases were subject to a special constitution which is conditioned ” by the prevailing climate and epidemic fevers” Gastric impurities, and especially bile, were responsible for most diseases which must therefore be eliminated by means of emetics and purgatives. In addition a battle must be waged against “hidden inflammations” which were a great danger in the case of many patients. The reputation that was accorded to Stoll’s teaching can be readily recognised from the remark of Dr. F. F. Hecker’s, the subsequent author of the “Anti-Organon,” He, and with him many of his contemporaries, considered “the fortunate method of Stoll” a brilliant advance in medical science. Another physician designates Stoll as ” the greatest living clinician.”
Joh. Kampf (1726-1787) asserted that most diseases have their seat in the abdomen, and were caused by infarcts. For the elimination of these infarcts clysters were recommended, to which were added decoctions of landlion, chamomile, rye and wheat bran, and other “suitable herbs.” One physician of his day confesses that he had cured patients to whom he had administered 5,000 intestinal clysters before he succeeded in getting rid of the infarcts entirely. “Frequently the work and patience of a Hercules are required,” writes Oberhofrat and first physician-in ordinary, Dr. Kampf, ” in order to clear out the astonishingly large accumulation of years of refuse, and to master the indurated and impacted degenerations of the blood.” Kampf’s teaching also found grateful approval among the physicians. His essay was designated as a work of which ” the Germans might be proud.”
Towards the end of the nineties the system of Brown spread over Germany. Its originator, the Scotch John Brown (1736 to 1788), traced the origin of all diseases back to two causes, to a superabundance of excitability (sthenic) or the lack of excitability (asthenic). The physician’s task was, therefore, much simplified, because in the case of diseases originating from abnormal excitability remedies were employed which were “irritability reducers” as for example venesection, emetics and purgatives, sudorifics, starvation and cold water treatment, vegetable diet, bodily and mental rest. With asthenic diseases which preponderate, the stimulating remedies are used; warmth, alcohol, raw meat, spices, musk, camphor enter, opium, physical and mental exercise, etc. A more accurate diagnosis was unnecessary.
Brown says himself:
The simplicity to which medial science has been reduced is so great that a physician when he comes to the bedside only needs to ascertain three things.
1. Whether the diseases sthenic or asthenic! 2. When general, if sthenic or asthenic; 3. What was the degree of excitability.
When he has satisfied himself on these three points nothing remains for him to do but to decide on his instructions and on his system of treatment and then to carry these out by suitable remedies.
In consequence of this concerting simplicity, Brown’s system received an enthusiastic reception from the medical profession, and for a whole decade Brownish flourished in Germany. In another place we have described how Hahnemann was his decided antagonist and opposed him most violently.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Natural Philosophy as founded by Schelling gained an enormous influence over medicine. It soared high above all shallow thinking and based all conceptions and explanations on manifestations of the absolute. But we find here also clear indications of Brown’s doctrines, as Schelling thought that he found in them almost a confirmation of his own ideas.
To these many systems and paths in medicine was further added the doctrine of the Englishman, John Hunter (1728-1793), who in contrast to Natural Philosophy proved by his inductive mode of research, especially in inflammations, that he morbid processes followed physiologically laws, and ultimately the Frenchman, Broussais (1772-1838), who assumed that most diseases originated from engorgements and inflammations which had their seat principally in the stomach and intestines, therefore requiring the withdrawal of blood by means of leeches and venesections.
HAHNEMANN AS CHEMIST AND PHARMACIST.
Concerning Mercuries Solubilis Hahnemanni, Professor Gren said (Crell’s Annals, I, c. II, page 224.):
Through Mr. Hahnemann’s Mercurius Solubilis, Mr. Macques’ problem of obtaining a mercurial remedy which should be simultaneously very soluble and yet free from all corrosiveness, is completely solved. In my opinion merc. sol. is preferable to sweetened mercury.
In ” Prescriptions and modes of cure of Physicians of all times” (Leips., 1814,2nd edition, IV, page 24) is stated:
Science owes one of the most efficacious and mild mercurial preparations to the well-known, and on its account, the immortal Hahnemann.
And Kurt Sprengel, in his History of Medical Science (Halle, 1828, Section V, Part.2, page 592) says:
Hahnemann’s mercury is a mild and excellent preparation the remarkable use of which has been confirmed.
We may point out particularly from Hahnemann’s “Apothecaries’ Lexicon” the regulations regarding the prescription, which only became law much later; then the definite requirements as to the methods of dealing with and the storing of poisons (“regulations for poisons”) the distillation over vapour baths, the evaporation of extracts by water baths, and especially the preparation of tinctures from fresh plants, the storing of strong-smelling substances, the presence of herbariums in every chemist’s shop for the purpose of teaching, standardising and condensing a number of requirements which give proof of the deep insight into the conditions according to the scientific, as also the technical and practical side of dispensing, and which have now become compulsory.
CONTEMPORARY VIEWS ABOUT THE CHEMIST AND PHARMACIST, HAHNEMANN.
We have given in Supplements 16, 18 and 36 the extremely favorable view regarding the various writings and translations of Hahnemann in the realm of chemistry and pharmacy. We will give here collectively the general appreciations of his services to chemistry and pharmacy.
Professor Crell announced the publication of Hahnemann’s translation of De la Metherie’s ” On pure air,” in the Annals of Chemistry, 1790, I, page 85, with the following remark:
The German Natural Scientists have every reason to look forward with anticipation to the translation, which we shall soon except, from such a chemist as Dr. Hahnemann.
And when the translation had appeared, we again find in the Annals (1792, I, page 475).
Dr. Hahnemann is a man who has rendered great service to German Natural Scientists by his excellent translation of important foreign works, as we have already acknowledged.
And the same year he is again mentioned (Annals, I, Page 200).:
This celebrated chemist and (1793, II, page 124) this physician who has rendered such great service.
Professor Gottling mentions in the “Medic. Chir.Ztg.” (1794, I, page III), Hahnemann and Gren as the two men ” to whom chemistry already owes many important discoveries.”
Professor Scherer, in his “Journal de Chemie” (1799, II, page 402), calls him that “meritorious Hahnemann,” and Professor Trommsdorff in “journal de Pharmacie” (1794, II, page 48), “the worthy author” (of an essay on the chemical examination of wine) In the year 1795, he states again in the same Pharmaceutical Journal (II. second piece, page 25).
It is true, undoubtedly true, that pharmacy has made great progress; the efforts of Gren, Gottling, Hagen, Hahnemann, Hermbstadt, Heyer, Westrumb, Wiegleb, and others have not been without result.
In his review of the progress of chemistry in the Eighteenth Century, Professor Gmelin (Crell’s Annals, 1801, I, page 16-17) enumerates each of Hahnemann’s accomplishments, and particularly points out the services he has rendered in the improvement of the utensils used, and the procedure employed in the distillation of spirit, and for the “production of Natron.”