Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (10 April 1755 – 2 July 1843) was a German physician, well known for creating the system of medicine called Homeopathy. Dr Hahnemann had mastery over seven languages namely, German, Italian, Spanish, French, English, Latin and Greek. He, gained further proficiency in Arabic, Syrian, Chadian and Hebrew. He had reputation as a clinician as wells an acclaimed chemist of his time. One of his hobbies was to translate medical books from one language to other.
Hahnemann studied medicine and graduated MD at the University of Erlangen on 10 August 1779. In 1781, he took a village doctor's position and became dissatisfied with the state of medicine in his time, particularly with practices such as bloodletting and leaching. He claimed that the medicine he had been taught to practice sometimes did more harm than good to patients.
“My sense of duty would not easily allow me to treat the unknown pathological state of my suffering brethren with these unknown medicines. The thought of becoming in this way a murderer or malefactor towards the life of my fellow human beings was most terrible to me, so terrible and disturbing that I wholly gave up my practice in the first years of my married life and occupied myself solely with chemistry and writing”[Box]
After giving up his practice around 1784, Hahnemann made his living chiefly as a writer and translator, also resolving to investigate the causes of medicine's alleged errors. While translating William Cullen's book, A Treatise on the Materia Medica, Hahnemann encountered the claim that cinchona, the bark of Peruvian tree, was effective in treating malaria, the foot note to this attributed the effectiveness to the severe bitterness. Hahnemann believed that other astringent substances are not effective against malaria and began to research the effect of Cinchona on the human body by self-application. Noting that the drug induced malaria-like symptoms in himself, he concluded that it would do so in any healthy individual. This led him to postulate a healing principle: "that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual, can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms." This principle, like cures like, became the basis for an approach to medicine which he gave the name Homeopathy.
Dr. Hahnemann contributed in reforming the medical practices of the 18th century by attributing the cause of disease to the internal environment of the host and thus originated the basic tenet that every individual reacts differently in health and disease. Further, he undertook proving of drugs on healthy human beings, giving dynamised form of medicines in minimum dose. He therefore, advocated restoration of health of sick individuals in a gentle manner. The shift from large to smaller dose of drugs, resulted in minimizing the toxicity and side effects. The process of individualization also helps in building up a better doctor-patient relationship.
Hahnemann was the first medical scientist to prepare medicines in potentised form and proving them on healthy human beings. He also went on to determine how the medicines acted to cure diseases. Therefore, he is called the father of Experimental Pharmacology. The basic principles of Homoeopathy and the philosophy enunciated by Hahnemann continue to be unchanged even after 200 years. These form the guiding force of homoeopathic practice for physicians around the world.
References: Das Eswara Dr, History and Status of Homeopathy around the world, B Jain Publishers (P) ltd, New Delhi, 2005
Homoeopathy- Science of Gentle Healing, Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family welfare, Government of India. 2013 and also at http://ccrhindia.org/