Mr. President and Brother,.
We have gathered here this afternoon to revere the memory of one who can well lay a claim to be one of the greatest physicians of world, Samuel Hahnemann. some years ago, on a similar occasion, one side of his life was narrated be me. This time I intend to place before you a few glimpses of his boyhood and school-life, and his professional career.
My object in choosing this phase of his life is that, we can all visualize Hahnemann the thinker, Hahnemann then physician, Hahnemann the philosopher; but it is more difficult to realise that Hahnemann was first of all an ordinary human being. He was very much as other men in the ordinary run of life, but being gifted with marvelous powers of concentration, deep philosophical insight, and unusual ability to co-relate facts, he rose to the high pedestal he occupied later on only after countless battles against himself and outward circumstances.
We are likely to forget Hahnemann the precocious child, a problem to his family, Hahnemann the almost insufferably egotistical youth, and Hahnemann the poverty-striken burdened man helping his wife in the labours of the household. We must never lose sight of the fact that his remarkable attainments came only after long and biter struggle against forces of nature and circumstances, and that his greatest attainment was the ability to hold to the line even in the most bitter adversity.
Hahnemann belonged to a family of artists of considerable eminence. His grandfather, father, and uncle devoted all their time and energy on porcelain painting. “To act and live without pretence or show” was the motto of the Hahnemanns. The Seven Years war brought bad times to the family, and they were forced to live the simplest of lives. They found it hard even to give education to the children, but in spite of that kept them in school till a sound educational basis was achieved.
Samuel developed early in life a mind thoughtful beyond his years, and his father fostered this tendency by teaching him to observe Nature in all her moods, and to observe closely all the lessons which can be read in the greater book of the outdoors. Ever since his young age he practised his fathers precept of never, when learning or listening, to be merely passive. samuel had inherited the gift of artistry and the ability to record what he saw; this, coupled with his thoughtful mind, was preparing him for that exceptional life-work which was to follow.
Owing to straightened circumstances, Samuels father had long been looking forward to the day when his burden would be eased by the younger generation. So far as Samuel was concerned that day was never to dawn. He stuck up to his school studies inspite of his fathers wishes. His intense interest in his studies enlisted his mothers sympathy. And when he could not borrow one of the family lamps for fear of detection in his night studies, he fashioned a crude porcelain lamp for himself, and his mother furnished oil from the scanty family store.
His teacher was so fascinated by his ardent studies that he protested against Samuels removal from the school, and offered free tuition in such a tactful way that he overcame the fathers scruples, and Samuel was allowed to continue his studies.
Samuel Hahnemann had four great gift: a voracious appetite for learning, the willingness to study, often spending whole nights over his books, magnificent health, and the ability to arouse in his instructors such sympathy and interest that they were willing not only to teach him without recompense, but at times found the means for him to earn his living in continuation of his studies. His graduation essay in 1779 marked one of the great landmarks of his career.
From the beginning of his practice Hahnemann was outspoken in his criticism of the then prevailing methods of medical practice. His war against bleeding which was commonly resorted to in the then methods of treatment, and the universal lack of attention to diet and hygiene, attracted the notice of many physicians. He had a markedly fluent pen which he made use of in emphasizing his views on current methods. This, however, raised a hornets nest about his ears. He had to move from place to place and he could not establish himself anywhere.
His writings, however, brought him some patients whom he treated by mail. His sheet anchor in these discouraging days was his deep interest in chemistry in which he was entirely self-taught. He rose to a very high prominence in that branch of science even above the most eminent men of his day. It did not, however, supply him the means of livelihood. He had, therefore to resort to another gift of his, viz., mastery over languages. That is why we find him translating so many medical and scientific books which proved to be the support of his family.
Sprouts of Homoeopathy:.
His first glimpse of the law of healing gave new impetus to his mental powers, and his scientific mind found in this glimmering of truth a new field for investigation. To this new concept he devoted his talents and time, and as the truth became ever clearer to him, gradually by toilsome stages, he created a rational system of medicine out of it.
In this preface to the Materia Medica Pura, Vol. I., he wrote: “The day of the true knowledge of medicines and of the rue healing art will dawn when men cease to act so unnaturally as to give drugs to which some purely imaginary virtues have been vaguely recommended, and of whose real qualities they are utterly ignorant, and which they give mixed up together in all sorts of combinations.
With these debatable mixtures a haphazard treatment is pursued, not of cases of diseases that have been carefully investigated as to their special signs and symptoms, but purely artificial forms and names of diseases invented by pathology. By this method no experience whatever can be gained of the helpful or harmful qualities of each medicinal ingredient of the mixture, nor can any knowledge be obtained of the curative properties of an individual drug.
The day of true knowledge of medicines and of the true healing art will dawn when physicians shall trust the cure of complete cases of diseases of a single medicinal substance and when, regardless of the traditional system, they will employ for the extraction and cure of a case of disease whose symptoms they have investigated, one single medicinal substance whose positive effects hey have ascertained which can show among these effects a group of symptoms very similar to those presented by the case of disease.”.
Botany was his favourite subject even in his school days, and he had his own herbarium which later on was useful to him in studying the medicinal properties of herbs, This was additional aid to him in his new concept of treating disease.
After a great deal of wandering he finally settled at Torgan in 1805. Here his startling innovations in the treatment of the insane and his radical methods of sanitary reform brought him to the limelight, and a number of people sought his advice. His attention to the new, theory had clarifies his ideas greatly, and he felt great confidence in the rationality of his work. He put all his ideas in writing, and then in 1810 the famous “Organon” saw the light of the day.
Even all this did not help his medical practice. He could succeed in attracting only a few towards him. He therefore decided to become a lecturer at the Leipzig University with the express idea of inculcating his new views in the budding physicians. That also did not succeed in attracting students towards him, mainly because of his antagonistic attitude towards the then current thought, The few that out of curiosity came, stayed to listen because they were infatuated by his clear logical thinking and brilliant deductions.
After he settled in Paris he had some years of very successful and large practice till he bade farewell to this world on 2nd July 1843.
Seldom does a life-span cover greater struggle and hardship for an ideal so largely unselfish. Clear thinking, hard work, and rigid honesty were the rules of his life.
Brothers, is there not enough in this Life for us to learn and to emulate.
Brother, is there not enough in this Life for us to learn and to emulate.
And, now, may I propose a toast to the memory of the student, the scholar, the teacher, the physician, to the memory of the author, the researcher, and thinker; to the memory of him to whom the world owes a debt of gratitude it can never repay, and the only way we can here possibly attempt it is to follow and practice his way.