– The life and work of Frederick Hahnemann, son of Samuel Hahnemann (D. Little)
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 November 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 with a 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 accident in which their large carriage overturned and the entire family was injured. One of the girls’ legs was broken. Frederick’s spine was possibly broken (Hering’s account1) 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 homeopathic healing arts. In the following year, he was chosen by his father to answer the bitter criticism by Hecker of the first edition of the Organon.
As time went on, Frederick became more and more eccentric in his appearance and behavior. He did not cut his hair nor beard, always wore Oriental clothes, did not mix with society, and often withdrew into his own world. From 1818 onward, his letters began to show traces of temporary mental disturbance, causing his father to cry in 1819, “My poor son is certainly insane!” [Editors Note: In his text on homeopathic history,2 Julian Winston gives the following account by Dudgeon, describing the growing rift between father and son. “He contracted a matrimonial alliance with a widow…but according to what I have heard, was not well qualified to make his married life happy. This marriage gave great offense to his father, and led to an estrangement between them which was never removed.”]
Frederick eventually 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 for days for their turn. The mad genius was loved by his patients and despised by his critics. Humphreys gave the 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 homeopathic 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 homeopathic remedies and performed heroic provings on the insane so that 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. Hartman gives 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 favoring a certain kind of charlatanism, which he wrapped round with a mantel of student-boasting, and by means of which he gained an even greater number of followers.”
Frederick visited the village of Zschopau and its vicinity 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, standing erect, with the reins in the hands of his small crooked body, 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 or what he said. As Humphreys said, “The multitude hurrahed and hosannahed. I know this from an eye witness.”
We have another account of Frederick Hahnemann from Bradford’s Pioneers of Homeopathy. In it, 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.”3
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 women already begun other treatments? The account is not clear, but it gives a most interesting view of one of Frederick’s more controversial cases.
The Allopathic Conspiracy Against %Frederick
All of this fame caused great jealousy and hatred of Frederick 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 Leipzig. It was only a matter of time before the local apothecaries and the Royal College of Medicine pressed legal charges against Frederick for dispensing medicine, in spite of the fact that he held a legal medical degree in the state and owned a chemist shop (though he charged nothing for his remedies).
He would be seen racing down the mountain road in an open four-horse carriage, standing erect, with the reins in the hands of his small crooked body, dressed in his old Oriental coat with his long unkept hair and beard blowing in the wind.
Like the legendary Johnny Appleseed, Frederick planted the seeds of homeopathy 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’s friends wrote Samuel Hahnemann and asked him to defend his son. 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.
But all of this commotion was too much for Frederick’s spirit, which revolted against the right of any authority to judge him. He told his supporters, “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 him. At first he fled to Holland but then he returned to Hamburg. Soon thereafter, 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. Samuel received a letter from his son in England in1827, which made him very happy. He loved his eccentric son, who 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 Samuel heard anything about 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. The following story was recorded by Richard Haehl, M.D. :
“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 consequentially 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.”4
William Wesselhoeft, M.D. also recorded a story of Frederick Hahnemann’s appearance in the 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.”
Thus, Frederick fled the persecutions of Europe to be one of the first homeopaths in the United States. 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 homeopathy 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 serving humanity 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 that was spreading through 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 Wesselhoeft continues:
“Again, I read somewhere, that while the cholera was raging in the Mississippi valley, a man dressed in a long Turkish garment, such a 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 little hunchback eccentric appears with his box of little homeopathic 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 had died a premature death. But he kept his pain to himself. How happy Samuel would have been if he knew 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 troubled in spirit, he was a master homeopathic healer. The time and place of his death is not known, as we have no record of him after 1833. Most likely, somewhere in the remote West, the crooked bones of this early homeopathic genius found their final resting place. 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.
1 Life of Hering. C. Knerr, M.D. , B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (1992) Pages 83, 120
2 The Faces of Homoeopathy. Julian Winston. Great Auk Publishing, Tawa, New Zealand (1999).
3 The Pioneers of Homeopathy. T.L. Bradford, M.D. , Boericke and Tafel, Philadelphia (1897).
4 Samuel Hahnemann, His Life and Work. Richard Haehl, B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (1995) Vol. 1, Pg. 161.