The physician is a collaborator with the vital forces tending to the recovery of health in every patient–Dr. M. Banuelos, University of Valladolid, Spain, Clinical Therapeutics, Vol. II, page 7, 1942. Vitalism one of the strongest pillars on which the axiom of Similia Similibus Curentur lies, is the highest philosophic theory of health, sickness and therapeutics.
This thesis was firmly propounded in all his works by the renowned Founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, an eminent physician, great clinician, linguist, philosopher, chemist, etc., who, together with his contemporaries, Skoda, Wunderlich, Rokitansky, Gall, Muller, Hufeland, Boerhaave, Stahl, Haller, Barthez, Bordeu, Bichat, Grimaud, Hoffmann, Cullen, Chaussier, Lordat, Lavoisier, etc., flourished in the nineteenth century.
Since it is impossible to enumerate in the present survey each of the different medico-philosophic theories from the beginning of medicine to the present day, I shall confine myself to mention those having great interest because of their vitalist substance in spite of their clearly materialistic precedence.
Hippocrates (460-370 B. C.), a great Greek physician and a descendant of the Asclepiades, who is regarded as the Father of Medicine, and a great philosopher endowed with a prolific, creative mind, founded the so-called “humoral” doctrine, recognizing vitalism with the name of “pneuma,” and established his therapeutics based on the axiom Natura Morborum Medicatrix.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), a renowned philosopher and Greek physician, called “entelechy” an intermediate force between soul and body and declared,” “The soul is the first act of the organic physical body, which has life in potency.”
Galen (131-201 A.D.), a great Roman physician and philosopher, of Greek birth, an Alexandrian by culture, and a Hippocratic in some some of his medical ideas, is considered to be the founder of scientific medicine in the Traditional School, and the Father of Pharmacy. His theory on pathology and therapeutics had as basis the pneumatic school, which was essentially vitalist, and he propounded his therapeutic law of Contraria Contrariis Curentur, that dominated the field of medicine until the eighteenth century.
Even in our own days the word “Galen” is sometimes used to mean physician. Paracelsus (1493-1541), physician, alchemist, astrologer, and a man of exceptionally queer personality, was one of the most terrible adversaries of Galen. He is regarded as the founder of chemotherapy. He admitted the Natura Medicatrix principle of Hippocrates and declared that chemical reactions and vital phenomena in living beings lie in an imponderable principle which he called “archeus.”
Van Helmont (1577-1644), who was later seconded by Franz Le Boe, known as Sylvius, established the iatro-chemical theory, which met some success in Germany, France, and England, where it was divulged by the great anatomist Willis.
Inspired by the ideas of the philosophers Bacon and Descartes, the Italian physician, Borelli (1608-1678), founded the iatro-mechanic theory, which was continued by Bellini, Baglivio, and several others. Boerhaave, a iatro-mechanicist, contended that the solids and fluids in the human body were ruled by mechanical, hydrostatic, and hydraulic laws.
The theories on life, health and sickness, as explained by chemistry, physics, mathematics and materialism, were abandoned, and later, with Stahl (1660-1734) and the Montpellier school, the animistic and the vitalistic ideas returned.
With the investigations of anatomists and physiologists appeared the new medical doctrines of irritability of Glisson; of spasm and atony of Cullen; of incitability of Brown, and those of counter-stimulus of Rasori, which, although modifying the therapeutic activities of the time, had an ephemeral life.
The vitalist ideas appear again with Bichat (1771-1802), who founded in France the anatomo-pathologic school, to which Broussais, Laennec, Andral, Trousseau, and many others belonged.
Broussais (1772-1838), a former disciple of Bichat, declared himself his enemy and established physiologic therapeutics employing his anti-phlogistic medication, which consisted of abundant bleedings and application of leeches, but the practices of this system were so disastrous that it soon lost credit.
The vitalist theories of Hippocrates, Stahl, Bordeu, Barthez and several others undoubtedly influenced the learned and renowned Founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann (1755-1843), a physician of the Traditional School, graduate of Erlangen, Germany, August 10th, 1779, who, disappointed in the therapeutics of his time, carried out new investigations and in 1796 published in Hufelands Journal an article entitled “A New Principle for Determining the Curative Power of Drugs,” in which work, after six years of careful study and experimentation on himself and his collaborators, he disclosed the pharmaco-dynamic action and the curative power of the Bark of Peru (China officinalis) on malaria and feverish conditions.