The Wesselhoeft Family and Homeopathy
December 20, 2007
The Wesselhoefts were a family of famous homeopaths. The first generation to come to America from Weimar, Germany, Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft and William Wesselhoeft, opened the Battleboro Water Cure.
Several sons of this family all became eminent physicians and homeopaths.
Conrad Wesselhoeft Snr 1834 - 1904
Brother of Robert Wesselhoeft 183? - , Conrad Snr was a graduate of Harvard Medical School in 1911. Conrad Snr was Louisa May Alcott’s homeopath, and she dedicated her novel Jo’s Boys to Conrad Snr, her friend and physician. Louisa May Alcott relied on Conrad Wesselhoeft for her medical care for the last twenty years of her life.
Conrad Snr assisted Alcott’s companion Rhoda Ashley Lawrence to establish her homeopathic practice, and became a founder member of the Boston University Medical School. In the 1870’s Conrad Snr, then Professor of Materia Medica and therapeutics for over thirty years, became one of the first people to institute the use of control groups and placebos in drug testing.
Conrad Wesselhoeft senior attended (Anon, The Homeopathic World, Volume 43, (1908). Page 236) the 2nd International Homeopathic Congress held in London (Anon, The Medical Counselor, Volume 7, (The Michigan State Homeopathic Society, 1883). Page 347) in on 11th-18th July 1881 (Anon, The Homeopathic World, (August 1,1881)) at Aberdeen House, Argyll Street, Regent Street.
WESSELHOEFT, practicing physician of Boston, Massachusetts, was born in Weimar, Germany, March 23, 1834, the son of Robert Ferdinand and Emilia Hecker Wesselhoeft. His grandfather came to this country from Hamburg, where his father was rector of a literary college. He later settled in Jena.
In 1840 Dr. Wesselhoeft came to this country with his parents. His father settled and established a medical practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later removing to Brattleboro, Vermont, where he conducted an extensive hydro-therapeutic establishment.
Dr. Conrad Wesselhoeft (Snr) was educated in New England public and private schools and was a student three and one-half years at the Nicolai College, Leipsic, Germany. The death of his father, in 1852, prevented the completing of his studies abroad ; he returned to this country and entered Harvard Medical School and its adjunct, the Tremont Medical School (conducted as a private school by the faculty of the Harvard Medical School), graduating in 1856.
He has been engaged in general practice continuously in Dorchester and Boston since graduation. He has been associated with the Boston University School of Medicine since its organization in 1873, holding the position of professor of materia medica and later that of professor of pathology and therapeutics. (and Associate in Communicable Diseases at Harvard)
He also has been a member of the medical staff of the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital since its organization in 1855. Dr. Wesselhoeft is a member and ex-president of the American Institute of Homeopathy; member of the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Society and the Boston Homeopathic Medical Society.
He married Elizabeth Foster Pope, and has one child -Minna Wesselhoeft.
Conrad also did homeopathic provings:
For Carbo vegetabilis, the proving by Conrad Wesselhoeft gave 190 good symptoms (included by Hughes in his _Cyclopaedia of Drug Pathogenesy_) and defined this pathogenesis; that is not the case of Ambra grisea.
Being a German speaker, Conrad Snr was the perfect choice to edit the 5th edition of Samuel Hahnemann’s Organon of Medicine, and he collaborated on the Cyclopaedia of Drug Pathogenesy_, _the report of the _Homeopathic Yellow Fever Commission. _
Conrad Snr also wrote _MUMPS: ITS GLANDULAR AND NEUROLOGIC MANIFESTATIONS, The Method of Our Work, Not Faith, is the Basis of Organization of Medical Societies, How to Study Materia Medica: Three Lectures, A lecture on homoeopathy before the members of the Boylston Medical Society (of Harvard Medical School), The Law of Similars: Its Dosage and the Action of Attenuated Medicines. _
Son of William Wesselhoeft 1794 - 1852, nephew of Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft 1795 -1858, brother of Robert 183?-?
Conrad’s wife Elizabeth Foster Pope ‘Lily’ was a renowned author of children’s books.
Conrad Wesselhoeft Jnr 1884 - 1962
Son of Walter Wesselhoeft, grandson of Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, nephew to Conrad 1834 - 1904, graduate of Harvard Medical School and practicing homeopath?, and considered an international authority on contagious and infectious diseases, and he wrote prolifically on these subjects. Conrad Jnr was Professor Emeritus of Clinical Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.(NB: see comment below 12.2.12 from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV - ‘… I’m pretty sure Walter’s son Conrad (my grandfather) was not a homeopath but an allopath… ’ Sue says - ‘… I tend to agree - this is probably correct as Boston University School of Medicine had stopped practicing homeopathy by WW I
Conrad Jnr wrote Studies in Regard to the Action of Quinine on the Malarial Plasmodia, Offprints of Conrad Wesselhoeft, 1912-1925_, On the History of Malaria and Its Treatment, Collected Reprints, 1912-1925.: 1912-1925, Orchitis in Mumps, Heredity, Essays on materia medica and therapeutics: attentuations, Digitalis as a Homeopathic Remedy in Disorders of the Heart, A Review of the Question of Belladonna as a Prophylactic in Scarlet Fever, Influences Affecting the Founding of Allentown Academy, The Sixteenth Charles Value Chapin Oration: Chickenpox and Herpes Zoster, Mumps: A Review of Our Knowledge Concerning Its Etiology, The Effects of Trituration with Observations, The Homeopathic Treatment of Whooping Cough, Homeopathy in the Light of Modern Medicine, The Sphere of Homeopathic Treatment in Diphtheria, The Relative Value of Homeopathy in a Series of 485 Hospital Cases. _Conrad Jnr contributed journals to the Boston Medical Library
WESSELHOEFT, CONRAD First Lieutenant (Medical Corps), U.S. Army 102d Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F. Date of Action: July 18 - 26, 1918 Citation: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Conrad Wesselhoeft, First Lieutenant (Medical Corps), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action during the Aisne-Marne offensive, France, July 18 - 26, 1918. Lieutenant Wesselhoeft, despite intense machine-gun and artillery fire, courageously established an operated his aid stations close to the front lines. On July 18, 1918, when the infantry retired, he maintained his aid station in advance of our own front lines, refused to leave the wounded unattended, and remained with them until the lines were reestablished. General Orders No. No. 3, W.D., 1935 Home Town: Boston, MA
WESSELHOEFT, CONRAD Captain (Medical Corps), U.S. Army 102d Infantry (Attached), 26th Division, A.E.F. Date of Action: November 8, 1918 Citation: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Conrad Wesselhoeft, Captain (Medical Corps), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Verdun, France, November 8, 1918. Captain Wesselhoeft went forward, under heavy machine-gun fire, to the aid of a wounded soldier. The fire was so heavy that they were compelled to remain in the shell hole until nightfall, when he brought the wounded man to our lines. General Orders No. 23, W.D., 1919 Home Town: Boston, MA
Wife Frances Gordon Kittredge Wesselhoeft, the daughter of George Lyman Kittredge.
Conrad Wesselhoeft 185?
Son of Walter 1838 - 1920 was also a homeopath.
Conrad Wesselhoeft III ?-?
Also see comment below dated 12.2.12 from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV for the obituary of - Conrad Wesselhoeft, Jr., age 88, of Tuscaloosa, died Sunday morning, July 24, 2011
Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft 1795 - 1852
Robert Ferdinand, who had been a lawyer in Weimar and an officer of the government, was arrested with other members of the Burschenschaften, and for seven years was kept in mild imprisonment, but on the accession of Frederick William IV of Prussia, he was released, returned to Jena, married, and was given his old government position. But his principles were too liberal, and he was requested by the authorities to leave Europe and take up his abode in America. continue reading:
Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft and his immediate family sailed to the United States in 1840 to meet his brother, Wilhelm Wesselhoeft a homeopathic physician. Robert Ferdinand studied under his brother and at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his medical degree from the University of Basel.
His particular medical interest was hydrotherapeutics. After school he began practicing with his brother in Cambridgeport and Boston. In 1841, Mr. Lovell Farr of Brattleboro, Vermont contacted Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft for his assistance in his wife’s illness, which was believed to be hopeless. Upon visiting Brattleboro he discovered that air and water was free and clear of all mineral substances unlike Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In 1843, he established one of the largest hydropath, water cure experiment in the country and served more than three-hundred-ninety-two patients. Among some of his clients were Harriet Beecher Stowe and Julia Ward Howe.
Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, brother of Dr. William Wesselhoeft was the first homeopathic physician in Cambridge. He was a graduate of Basle, and came to America in 1840 and settled in Cambridge in the summer of 1841. He practiced there four years. In 1845 he removed to Boston, and a year later went to Brattleboro, Vt., where he founded a hydropathic establishment which employed homeopathic medication.
Robert Ferdinand was viciously attacked by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an allopath who attacked homeopathy, but Holmes’s friend, author and homeopathic supporter Nathaniel Hawthorne lampooned the both of them in his novel Rappaccini’s Daughter. Almost forty years later, Holmes confessed that was pleased with “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” which is a kind of fictional resolution to that unblessed scandal.
Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft never answered these charges publicly, but he did express his resentment in the course of seventeen letters to a personal friend. These letters were later privately printed as “Some Remarks on Dr. O.W. Holmes’ Lectures on Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusion; Communicated to a Friend by Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, Homeopathic Physician in Cambridge.”
Robert Ferdinand went on to open Battleboro Hydropathic Institution. Shortly after Robert Ferdinand’s death, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote another novel called _The Blithedale Romance, _based on Robert Ferdinand and his neighbour Margaret Fuller. continue reading:
In the 1840’s, a new enterprise was launched on Elliot Street (west of the historic district) that soon gave Brattleboro a national reputation as an extraordinarily attractive summer resort. Dr. Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft opened his establishment for hydropathic physical therapy in 1845 using the water from numerous pure springs along Whetstone Brook.
The venture proved immediately successful; the following year, some 400 patients overflowed its facilities. The ‘water-cure’ attracted a wealthy and sophisticated clientele from throughout the country, especially Southerners who sought refuge from the heat and humidity of their regional climate. The influx of visitors contributed substantially to the village’s commercial success.
The available means of travel to Brattleboro must have constrained somewhat the success of the Wesselhoeft establishment during its first four seasons. In February, 1849, however, the railroad era arrived in Battleboro with the opening of the Vermont and Massachusetts line to the cities of the southern Connecticut Valley. continue reading:
Hydrotherapy was first used by Hippocrates and was incorporated into the healing practices of the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. It was revived in the 19th century by Vincent Priessnitz, who is often referred to as the father of the hydrotherapy movement (Robert Ferdinand claimed that he was cured of rheumatic fever by Priessnitz). “Hydropathy,” as it was termed at the time, was introduced to the United States in the 1840s by Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, a former patient of Priessnitz.
Dr. Joel Shew, a hydropath and an authority in the movement, authored many books and manuals about hydropathy and published the Water Cure Journal, a monthly magazine boasting a circulation of 50,000. continue reading:
The water cure in America: over three hundred cases of various diseases treated with water, by Drs. Wesselhoeft, Shew, Bedortha, Shieferdecker, Trall, Nichols, and others. With cases of domestic practice ; designed for popular as well as professional reading / edited by a water patient.
Robert Ferdinand was a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Robert Wesselhoeft II 183? -
Robert Wesselhoeft was also a homeopath
Brother of Conrad Wesselhoeft 1834 - 1904
Robert had two sons, Conrad and Walter. (see comment below dated 12.2.12 from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV - Robert had three sons: Conrad, Reinhold, and Walter. Lt. Reinhold Wesselhoeft served with the Massachusetts 20th Regiment during the Civil War. He died at Battle of Balls Bluff, in October, 1861) Conrad and Walter were both professors at the homeopathic medical school at Boston University).
Robert Wesselhoeft ?-? (grandson of Walter) Robert fought in WW2 and was very badly injured fighting in South West China. (nephew of Massachusetts Sen. Leverett Saltonstall) See comment 12.2.12 below from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV ‘… It was Walter’s grandson Robert, not Conrad, who contracted polio in the China-Burma theater during WWII. The story of his jungle rescue was later told on national radio by Chet Huntley and captured by comic strip artist Milton Caniff in a nationally syndicated strip featuring courageous actions in war…’
**Robert Wesselhoeft III ? - still alive **
Robert Wesselhoeft III was one of a vanishing breed of physicians who give their patients not only quality healthcare but the gift of time, even if it causes a backlog in the waiting room. But his patients rarely minded the wait because they knew they would receive the same attention from the man they all called Toby. For 19 years, Dr. Wesselhoeft was primary care physician at the Boston Evening Medical Center, a community center in the Back Bay. He became its medical director in 1989 and … continue reading:
Watch what you eat and drink. Alcohol, strong spices and MSG are the prime dietary causes of flushing, says Robert Wesselhoeft III, M.D., director of family medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.
Walter Wesselhoeft 1838 - 1920
Homeopathic physician, Professor of Clinical Medicine, anatomy and Obstetrics at the Boston University School of medicine 1873 - 1909. Original faculty member of Boston University School of Medicine.
Walter was born in Weimar, Saxe-Weimar, Germany, the son of Robert and Ferdinanda Emilia Wesselhoeft, and is of German descent. His paternal grandfather was a publisher, his maternal grandfather a clergyman, and his father a medical practitioner who was graduated in the University of Basle and later emigrated to America.
Walter Wesselhoeft attended the village school of Battleboro, Vermont, William Atkinson’s school in Boston and the classical schools at Apolda and Weimar. He studied for his profession in the University of Halle and Jena, Germany, and Harvard Medical School, from which latter institution he was graduated in 1859.
One year after his graduation Dr. Wesselhoeft located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, remaining there until 1870. At the outbreak of the Franco-German war he returned to his native country to offer his services as surgeon in the German army. Finding no place open, he devoted two years to the study of anatomy, histology and practice under Koelliker and von Recklinghausen … gynaecology and ophthalmology under Simon and Becker in Heidelberg ; and obstetrics under Seyfarth in Prague and Braun in Vienna.
In 1873 he returned to America and settled in Cambridge, where he engaged in a general practice. Dr. Wesselhoeft has held the positions of visiting physician to the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital and senior physician to the maternity department of that hospital; professor of obstetrics (clinical), Boston University School of Medicine. Prior to holding this professorship he was instructor in anatomy and physiology in the same institution, and he is now professor of clinical medicine there.
He is a member of the American Institute of Homeopathy, the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Society, the Boston Homeopathic Medical Society; corresponding member of the British Homeopathic Society and of the Mexican Homeopathic Medical Society, member of the Massachusetts Reform Club, and the Hughes Medical Club.
Dr. Wesselhoeft has been twice married : first to Mary S. Fraser of Halifax, N. S., and second to Mary A. Leavitt of Cambridge. He is the father of seven children.
As has been stated, the companion of Henry Detwiller in the first investigation in Pennsylvania of the truth of homeopathy was Dr. William Wesselhoeft of Bath in Northampton county.
He was the second son of Karl Wesselhoeft, who, with his brother-in-law, Friedrich Frommann, owned the largest publishing house in the university town of Jena during the palmy days of Saxe-Weimar. William was born in 1794 and when he was four years old his father moved from Chemnitz.
When he was ten years of age Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took a kindly interest in his education and gave him pencils and paper and friendly advice, in order to foster a love for drawing, for he believed that art was an essential to early education, and he himself excelled in it.
Nor did Karl, the father, stint these educational advantages, though impoverished by the wars with Napoleon. He had residing in his family as private tutor to his children the celebrated De Wette, afterward professor of theology at Berlin and later at Basle; and after De Wette, Grossman, who became superintendent of the Lutheran churches at Leipsic.
This family school consisted of William, his brothers Edward and Robert, his sister Wilhelmina, and a ward of his uncle Frommann, Minna Herzlied, celebrated in the ”Memoirs of Goethe” as one of the ladies who for a time held the sentimental poet’s heart.
In 1809 Wesselhoeft became a pupil at the Real Schule of Nuremburg, then under the direction of Gotthilf Henrich von Schubert, the great natural philosopher and psychologist, in whose autobiography may be found frequent mention of young Wesselhoeft. Here, besides studying Latin and Greek, he began his profound studies in the natural sciences, including anatomy, of which he was very fond, becoming very expert in anatomical drawings. His botanical studies also were extensive, and he prepared a valuable hortus siccus.
During his student life, he was in the habit of making extensive tours for the purpose of explorations in botany, mineralogy and geology, and his collections of mineral and geological specimens were given to Dr. Adolph Douai for the benefit of the students in the Perkins Institution for the Blind.
Our young savant also studied transcendental physics with the celebrated Oken. In 1813, being nineteen years old, he entered the University of Jena, graduating there seven years afterward as doctor of medicine, having perfected his general and medical education at the Universities of Berlin and Wurzburg, at each of which he resided for a season, and at which he passed the second and third examinations necessary in Germany to obtain a license to practice medicine.
Wesselhoeft was not only a scholar of parts but also an attractive man of the world. At this time Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was much interested in meteorology, and Wesselhoeft enjoyed making observations of the clouds for him at the observatory at Jena.
Wesselhoeft was in sympathy with the young patriots who had returned from German army service, in which struggle Koerner fell in 1806. When in Berlin in 1819 he became intimate with “Old Jahn,” who invented the modern system of gymnastics and had in Berlin a gymnasium as early as 1811.
It was the time of the Burschenschaften in Germany, or secret political societies to promote nationality; and William and Robert Wesselhoeft, who were students at Jena, were very active in promoting these organizations. These Burschenschaften were betrayed by a traitor and many were arrested, among them William and Robert Wesselhoeft.
William, who was at the time pursuing his studies at Berlin, was thrown into the political prison, and Robert was confined in the fortress at Magdeburg. William escaped after a two months’ imprisonment and was for a long time concealed in his father’s house at Jena.
Then young Dr. William wished to go to the assistance of the Greeks, who were struggling for freedom. He became surgeon to the German Philhellenen and started well equipped with surgical appliances. Indeed so ample was the quantity of lint and of bandages prepared by his sister Wilhelmina, his friend Ferdinanda, and others in the secret, that it is said to have served him all his life.
When he arrived at Marseilles an injunction was laid on the vessel, and no more volunteers could go to Greece. From Marseilles he went to Switzerland, where were his friends Fallen and Beck and De Wette, who had found positions at the University of Basle.
In this university Wesselhoeft also found employment as demonstrator of anatomy and assistant oculist. He remained there two years, and spent his vacations in tours among the lofty mountains not only for love of natural science but for the picturesque.
During the later years of his life he often talked of revisiting Switzerland, and the last picture he purchased was a painting of the Alps reminding him, as he said, of his own youth.
But there was interference by the allied powers with the German refugees, driving Drs. Follen and Beck from Switzerland, and compelling Wesselhoeft to leave for America at the same time. Some letters showing his sympathy with Follen had fallen into the hands of the despots.
He sailed from Antwerp and was four months on the voyage. On his arrival he went to Lehigh county, Pa., where lived a German family he had known at home.
From there he went to Northampton county, seeking a place to practice, and finally settled at Bath, where the population was largely German. Soon after Wesselhoeft had come to America certain of his old classmates had become interested in homeopathy and wrote to him to test the medicines.
His old friend and teacher John Ernst Stapf sent him the Organon provings, together with homeopathic medicines. At first it seemed absurd to him, but a love of fair play to the man who had devoted so much time to this new materia medica induced him to test its virtues. Infinitesimal doses were hardest to accept.
His first experiment was in a case of ozena whose symptoms indicated Hahnemann’s thirtieth dilution of some medicine. He said:
"I was really ashamed to give the thirtieth dilution and substituted the sixth."
When he went the next day his patient was sitting up in bed, the symptoms much worse and she very angry. The disease was cured, however, without another dose.
Among his first successes was his treatment of croup with spongia and hepar. He communicated these cases to John Eberhard Freitag, Henry Detweiller and to others, and they engaged in personal investigation. So great was the confidence in him that his patients were willing to take the small doses that he soon began to prescribe.
The story of the first provers’ union, the first society, the Allentown Academy, with all which Wesselhoeft was identified, will appear in proper sequence. When the success of the academy became doubtful, Constantine Hering went to Philadelphia and Wesselhoeft to Allentown to try to support the institution.
In 1842 Wesselhoeft decided to remove to Boston… in less than eight years after Henry Detweiller and Wesselhoeft had made their first practical demonstrations of homeopathy the number of converts had so increased that a medical society was formed, and just a little later these same determined pioneers had the courage to go beyond society organization and found a school of homeopathic medical instruction…
The Hahnemannian Society was the pioneer organization of homeopathy in Pennsylvania and indeed in the entire country, and dates its history to April 10, 1833, when Drs. Ihm, Bute, Matlack, Constantine Hering and Wesselhoeft, with a few laymen, associated themselves for the purpose of disseminating among the people some knowledge of the history and doctrines of homeopathy, and its advantages over other methods of medical treatment. continue reading:
Williamand his brother Robert founded the Battleboro Water Cure in Vermont.
Wilhelm was a physician who practice and taught the principles of homeopathy. He also founded one of the first homeopathic societies in the country, Northampton County Society of Laymen and Physicians in Pennsylvania.
William was vice president of the AMERICAN OBSTETRICAL SOCIETY
William Fessenden WESSELHOEFT 1862-1943
Commissioned Major September 17, 1917. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel October 18, 1918. Director and Chief Surgical Service, Base Hospital N. 44, Camp Dix, N. J. April 1918 and A.E.F. July 1918. Temporary duty Mobile Hospital N. 4, A.E.F. Overseas France, nine months. Discharged April 29, 1919.
William was the [Commanding Officer of the Base Hospital
which was organised by the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital.
With thanks to Linda Englemann, the Annals of Brattleboro by Mary R. Cabot are all online. Her great-grandfather, Christian F. Schuster, who came to the States around 1840 and was hired by Robert Wesselhoeft as musical director at the Wesselhoeft Water Cure (Hydropathic Establishment) in
- Vol. II, pages 563-575 contains an extensive section on the Wesselhoeft Water Cure, and it mentions the musical evenings there.