Medical pluralism - IGM projects

Even the founder Robert Bosch, when he acquired the Hahnemann estate and participated in setting up a Paracelsus library, had the intention of bringing homeopathy and other procedures, which today are classified as complementary medicine, into dialogue with conventional medicine. This basic idea of pluralism in medicine also characterises the historical research of the IGM, which is no longer limited to the history of homoeopathy alone.

Pilot project for digitisation of Hahnemann manuscripts

(Editors: Florian Barth, Marius Maile)

Pilot project for digitisation of Hahnemann manuscripts

Within the framework of this project, development of the digital edition was pushed using transcription of the French medical journal DF 5 as an example, especially in TEI coding, the eXist database and the design of the website. A workflow for the semi-automatic conversion of the transcription structure into the TEI format was developed, which can be transferred to the transcribed medical journals in the future. Based on the SADE framework, a website was created that includes a synoptic view of facsimile and different text variants as well as a faceted search. Patient entities can thus be traced in the text and linked to Hahnemann's medication. In addition, a dynamic representation of the patients' places of residence and the modelling of a patient network together with the associated norm data were developed. The digital edition now offers much more open access to Hahnemann's medical journals compared to the print version.

It can be reached at

Religious healers in medical pluralism in Germany

(Editors: Dr Michael Teut, Prof. Dr Martin Dinges, Prof. Dr Dr h. c. Robert Jütte)

Religious healers in medical pluralism in Germany

Religion and medicine have had a thoroughly ambivalent relationship since ancient times. The difference between healing and pastoral care became more fundamental in the 19th century, when theology and medicine had differentiated themselves as scientific disciplines that defined their objects and procedures in almost contradictory ways. Given the current developments in health care, a fresh look at religiously inspired forms of healing is highly revealing – not only to analyse them, but almost as a litmus test for our relationship to the specific ways of thinking in modern science and medicine.

The conference papers have been published as supplement no. 71 of the journal MedGG 2019.

Gustav Jäger and homeopathy

(Editor: Dr Daniel Walther)

The few people today who know of Gustav Jäger (1832–1917) associate the name with Jäger's efforts to create clothing that promoted health. From 1880 onwards, he marketed textiles made from animal wool under the name "Normalkleidung" (normal clothing), which were intended to help the body eliminate so-called miasma and regulate heat, and to toughen it up. In contrast, Jäger's services to homeopathy have been completely forgotten. He was convinced that he could prove the effect of homeopathic medicines with the help of the neural analysis he had developed as well as physiological antagonism.
The project explores the two questions of why Jäger – actually a zoologist, later a commercially successful life reformer – became involved with homeopathy in the first place and how homeopaths reacted to his discoveries at the time. The periodicals "Homöopathische Monatsblätter" (Homeopathic Monthly), "Leipziger Populäre Zeitschrift für Homöopathie" (Leipzig Popular Journal of Homeopathy) and "Allgemeine Homöopathische Zeitung" (General Homeopathic Journal) in the period from 1879 to 1917 should provide information about this. In addition, two of Jäger's writings on homeopathy are evaluated and the "Zeitschrift für Gesundheitspflege und Lebenslehre" (Journal for Health Care and Life Teaching), which he edited, is reviewed.

The project has been completed in the meantime. An essay has been published in the Jahrbuch Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte (Medicine, Society and History Annual) (37).

History of Homeopathy in the Stato della Chiesa between 1822-1860

(Editor: Marisa Chironna)

History of homeopathy in the Stato della Chiesa between 1822–1860

"Medici o ciarlatani?" (Doctors or quacks?), published in 2016, investigated the development of homeopathy in the Kingdom of Two Sicilies between 1822 and 1860. In this follow-up project, the study is geographically extended to the development of homeopathy in the Italian Papal States for the same period. The plan is to consider personnel and institutional factors. Separate chapters will be devoted to both practising doctors and lay people, as well as to the attitude of universities towards homoeopathy. In addition to the role of cholera in the spread of homeopathy, the attitude of the popes towards this complementary healing method plays a role. Another focus is the study of the activities of the homeopathic physician Johann Wilhelm Wahle (1794–1853), who belonged to the direct circle of students of Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843). Wahle had been practising in Rome since 1840 and came into conflict with the authorities there for as yet unknown reasons. The Wahles legacy, which is kept in the Homoeopathy Archive, is a fundamental source for this. The letters addressed to him promise to provide information about the patients he cared for as well as his professional networks.

"Procesos de construcción social y científica de la homeopatía en Cataluña" (Processes of social and scientific construction of homeopathy in Catalonia)

(Editor: Dr Joel Piqué Buisan)

"Procesos de construcción social y científica de la homeopatía en Cataluña" (Processes of social and scientific construction of homeopathy in Catalonia)

The dissertation project deals with social and scientific construction processes of homeopathy in Catalonia from 1890 to 1924. Beyond the usual narratives of the history of ideas and reception, the focus is on the close link between laboratory research, hospital and medical science rhetoric. These are precisely elaborated in a regional historical approach. Special attention is also paid to pharmacies and pharmacists as agents of the commercial legitimisation of homeopathy in Barcelona. Aspects of pharmaceutical imports and the pharmacies' own production as well as advertising and cooperations on the local market also play a role. In addition to the dissertation, written in Spanish and awarded the highest grade in 2018, an English summary of the main findings appears in the journal MedGG.

History of the alternative practitioners

(Editor: Prof. Dr. Florian Mildenberger)

Originally conceived as a follow-up project to the study on the history of homeopathic doctors under National Socialism, the premise changed due to the lack of interest on the part of alternative practitioners' associations in coming to terms with their own history before 1945. A decision was then made to change the project to study German-speaking areas where the practice of lay medicine had long been strictly forbidden. The idea behind this was that in these territories both healers and patients were subject to a considerably higher pressure to professionalise than in the second German Empire, where freedom of courier reigned. Consequently, the German-speaking areas of the historical Kingdom of Bohemia and the territory of Austria, which came into being after 1918, were the focus of attention. Only during the short phase of National Socialism from 1938/39 to 1945 was there officially licensed lay medicine here. In addition, in order to be able to understand how lay healers positioned themselves when the previously granted freedom of courier suddenly ceased to exist, the province of Posen and the "Reichsland" Alsace-Lorraine were also included in the study. After 1918, lay medicine had been banned in both areas, but survived and was legalised again in 1939/40. Finally, for the sake of completeness, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which is equally influenced by French and German linguistic and legal traditions, was also included in the study. The results of the research project will be published in a monograph and several articles in 2018.

The project has been completed in the meantime. The results have been published in the supplement series of Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte (Medicine, Society and History) (69).

"This is where I arrived in the search for my medicine": Doctors and alternative practitioners' shift towards homeopathy and its causes

(Postdoc project, editor: Daniel Walther)

In recent years, research in the history and sociology of medicine has focused intensively on the question of why patients turn their backs on conventional medicine and turn to alternative or complementary medical practices such as homeopathy. Less often, however, the individual motivations of the medical staff (doctors, alternative practitioners, nurses) came into focus. The subject of such investigations was primarily the attitude of doctors towards homeopathy or their position within the health and health insurance system.
Within the framework of the post-doctoral project, the question of the specific understanding of self and health on which homeopathic doctors and alternative practitioners base their medical practice will be investigated. On the other hand, the personal motives are of interest that have led doctors in particular to question the scientific causal-analytical thinking they learned in their studies and to turn away from conventional medicine either partially or completely. The total of 26 autobiographical reports sent to the IGM by medical and non-medical homoeopaths from all over Germany following an appeal in the Allgemeine Homöopathische Zeitung (AHZ, General Homeopathic Journal) provide information about this. In addition, 15 one-page short reports by English homeopaths are used, which were published in the journal Homeopathy & Health under the heading "Why I became a homeopath". This second sample provides a transnational view of individual motivations of doctors and alternative practitioners to use homeopathy in their practice. The bilateral comparison in turn allows conclusions to be drawn as to whether the shift towards alternative and complementary medicine is to be understood as active criticism of the economised health care system and thus a response to its grievances, or whether it is primarily due to personal or professional ethical reflections.
After the analysis of German- and English-language doctors' biographies revealed the individual motives and their reaction to current, overarching socio-cultural and political-economic processes, the results can be compared on a diachronic level and classified historiographically. The biographical information compiled by Fritz Schroers in his Lexikon deutschsprachiger Homöopathen (Encyclopaedia of German-speaking Homoeopaths) is a good source. Similarly, selected autobiographies are consulted in order to learn more about the specific motivations that led doctors in the 19th and 20th centuries to turn their backs on academic and later on scientific medicine despite all resistance.

The project has been completed in the meantime. An essay has been published in the Jahrbuch Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte (Medicine, Society and History Annual) (36).

The importance of dietetic affect concepts in practices of "spiritual medicine"

The aim of the postdoctoral project (supervisor: PD Dr. Carlos Watzka) is to investigate the significance and effectiveness of dietary knowledge on the subject of affects in the practices of Catholic ecclesiastical medicine in the early modern period. The period from the late 16th to the late 18th century forms the temporal framework with Bavaria and Austria as the spatial framework. In a broad understanding of the term, "spiritual medicine" is understood to be the totality of discourses and practices carried out by persons of spiritual status or church institutions with reference to phenomena of health and illness. Although the history of "alternative" or "complementary" medicine as well as the topic of pre-modern dietetics have received increased scientific attention in recent decades, the state of research on this specific issue is still limited.
The research project is based on the following theses: In addition to genuinely theological concepts – here, the significance of the "passions" in the teachings on the "deadly sins" should be noted in particular – specialist medical teachings, but more broadly popular – and not least 'magical' – ideas also shaped the relevant body of knowledge and the associated practices of the Catholic clergy. Particular practical importance was attached to dealing with emotions in intense crisis experiences, which clergy were regularly confronted with due to their profession, especially the accompaniment of the seriously ill and dying as well as pastoral care of the bereaved.
These questions are examined on the basis of selected source material; firstly, "soul consolation books", devotional books, collections of prescriptions, etc., i.e. instructions for and/or by clergy, are to be analysed; secondly, sources in which concretely realised actions have found (even if not "objective") expression, such as "miracle book"', as written accounts of assumed, salutary divine action at "places of grace", thematically relevant reports and correspondence of clergy or persons in their care, but also relevant pictorial sources and, where available, files of church and secular authorities.

The perception of practising homeopaths regarding developments in bacteriology and immunology between 1880 and 1920

(Editor: Dr Carol-Ann Galego)

In early September 2017, Dr Galego began her postdoctoral research at the IGM, pursuing her interest in the homeopathic treatment of epidemics and its political significance. While her doctoral thesis focused on the earlier years of homeopathy, she is now researching homeopathy at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century with a view to developments in bacteriology and germ theory and their influence on homeopaths in Germany, the UK and the USA. The following questions are central: How did the homeopathic understanding of aetiology differ from the teachings of germ theory? How did the perception of physical resistance differ from modern theories of immunity as defence? While Samuel Hahnemann's relatively nuanced understanding of the transmission of infectious diseases is sometimes seen as a prototype of later developments in germ theory and immunology, other aspects of his disease theory offer interesting points of contrast to these developments, notably the insistence on the immateriality of disease and understanding of the inherent interconnectivity and susceptibility of living organisms.

The development and significance of homeopathic lay associations from 1870 to the present day

The Institute for the History of Medicine of the Robert Bosch Foundation holds valuable collections that can provide information about the activities of homeopathic lay associations in the period from 1870 to the present: Association-related minute books and cash books, membership directories, annual reports, specific newspaper articles. Further sources of this doctoral project (editor: Daniel Walther) are contemporary testimonies and accounts of experiences. In addition, external sources not directly attributed to the associations, such as journal articles from the "Homöopathische Monatsblätter" (Homeopathic Monthly), the "Leipziger Populären" (Leipzig Popular) or articles from the "Medicinisches Correspondenzblatt des Württembergischen Ärztlichen Vereins" (Medical Correspondence Gazette of the Württemberg Medical Association), provide a further opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the structures of association and higher-level association activities.

Central questions of the project are, on the one hand, how the associations developed during the period of the study and how the influence of the different political systems affected the work of the associations. On the other hand, it is important to clarify what influence the associations had and have on health policy and to what extent the lay associations can be seen as a reaction to increasing patient disenfranchisement since the end of the 19th century. The associations offered and still offer a wide range of health education, not only in the field of homeopathy. Especially public lectures on topics of general interest, benefits and discounts for members, for example when visiting bathing establishments or homeopathic doctors, cheaper or in some cases even free access to homeopathic medicines through the maintenance of an association pharmacy were manifold attractions. The associations also set up libraries that included general literature on homeopathy as well as other health guides. The use of such offers were and are able to contribute to the sick person regaining control over their own body, their health and thus their autonomy, at least partially, through medical education and information.

The project has been completed in the meantime. The results have been published in the supplementary series of Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte (Medicine, Society and History) (volume 67).