Sue Young Histories

Christian Gottlob Hornburg 1793 - 1834

January 23, 2009

Christian Gottlob Hornburg 1793 - 1834 was a German orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy to become one of Samuel Hahnemann’s earliest disciples, the prover of Causticum, and the first homeopath to cure pleurisy and pneumonia with Aconite.

Christian Gottlob Hornburg was a colleague of Clemens Maria Franz Baron von Boenninghausen, Ernst von Brunnow, Carl Franz, Philip Wilhelm Ludwig Greisselich, Gustav Wilhelm Gross, Carl Georg Christian Hartlaub, Frantz Hartmann, Christian Freidrich Langhammer, Georg August Heinrich Muhlenbein, Alphonse Noack, John Ernst Stapf, Karl Friedrich Gottfried Trinks and many others.

Christian Gottlob Hornburg was horn in Chemnitz in the Royal Saxon Erz Geberge, October 18, 1793,  where his father, who is still living (1834), is a stocking weaver.

Quite early in his youth he attended the lyceum there, where he was educated with the intention of becoming a philologist and pedagogue: here he greatly distinguished himself.

He gained the prize offered, by a learned society, through an original Latin poem. In the year 1813, without any means of his own, but trusting to the support of some philanthropic individuals, he visited the University at Leipsic in order to devote himself to the study of theology.

But in the course of one year already lie developed a decided inclination for medicine, and encouraged by a well meaning and intelligent friend to whom he communicated his intention namely, the merchant Becker in Chemnitz, who promised to support him in this new career, he passed over to the exclusive study of the healing art.

Besides other medical lectures, he attended with particular preference those of Samuel Hahnemann, who had then lately arrived in Leipsic from Torgau and commenced his lectures. With these lectures and with the correct views thus acquired concerning the nature and quality of medicine as practiced heretofore, and with his acquaintance with the new reformed art of healing, a new life began for him. It could not be but that his clear, vivid and free spirit should enter most deeply into these views.

Unfortunately these studies were suddenly and violently interrupted by the death of his patron whose support alone had enabled him to continue at the University, and being deprived of all financial aid he was compelled to leave Leipsic and to return to his native city, where he found for some time a scanty support through his labors in the office of a lawyer of that place.

But as favorable projects for continuing his studies appeared after a time, he returned to Leipzig to complete his medical course. A few years later he honorably passed the theoretical examination as baccalaureate, after which he attended the public institutions, the lying-in hospital and the clinic, during the years 1818 and 1819, while he pursued with increasing zeal the study of Homeopathy.

Intimately acquainted with this new doctrine, and advanced in many ways by Samuel Hahnemann’s personal intercourse and favor, he even then accomplished many Homeopathic cures with success and fame, and proclaimed himself, with his natural frankness, in his own forceful manner, only too regardless of consequences, in favor of the new method of healing and opposed to the old.

By this, as well as by his successful cures of certain cases given up by other physicians, he drew on himself a number of enemies, but also gained a sort of fame and sympathy, and even attracted the notice of the authorities. His course of action, which was not indeed strictly legal, but which in others, who were not devoted to Homeopathy, was nearly always permitted to escape reproof, often gave offense, and became the occasion of many disagreeable reminders and persecutions. No occasion was allowed to pass to denounce him on account of his unauthorized cures, because he had not yet acquired the license for practicing.

Still how many baccalaurei medicinae can do this in Leipsic quite openly and without fear; but these are of course honest adherents of the legitimate (allopathic) art of healing!

Thus he became involved in the most disagreeable judicial trials and punished with fines, yea, with imprisonment. Yea, in November, 1819, his Homeopathic case of medicines was by order of the authorities taken from him by the actuary and the apparitor of the University, and there is a legend that the same was formally buried in the Paulina cemetery.

During the years 1814-1820, Hornburg did yeoman service with respect to extending our knowledge of remedial agents, as he, with great self-sacrifice, acute penetration and conscientious fidelity, instituted provings of the medicines on himself; the proofs of this are abundantly found in Samuel Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura.

Several attempts to secure a medical diploma in various universities failed, as they wished to treat him most rigorously and to make the matter as difficult as possible since Hornburg had in ill-name on account of his love for Homeopathy.

It may be, indeed, that Hornburg may not have acquired and retained the highest degree of readiness in the Allopathic doctrines, which he did not esteem very highly, and which is nevertheless insisted on when an examination is made especially severe.

In the year 1818 he married a Miss Kuettner, with whom he lived in contented wedlock, but without any children.

The zeal with which Hornburg lived and worked for Homeopathy, his solid knowledge in this department, his many successful cures, and especially his openness and readiness to give information to every searcher after truth, gained him many friends; especially many physicians in other places, who desired to become better acquainted with Homeopathy, turned to him and always returned from him well instructed and satisfied.

Thus in living intercourse with the friends of Homeopathy, in restless practical activity, undismayed by his many persecutions and trials, he lived till the year 1833, and, as he was naturally of a vigorous bodily constitution, he would have retained his health for yet a long time, but that, in consequence of the grippe which was epidemic in the spring of 1833, and by which he also was seized, a trouble of the chest that had been latent in him now developed more and more.

He succeeded, indeed, by the use of the most appropriate remedies, in substantially improving his condition; but a violent emotion which seized him on hearing of the publication on August 6th of a judgment condemning him to two months imprisonment acted so injuriously on his health, already so weakened, that he was seized on August 9th with a violent haemorrhage just as he was about to travel to Coethen for the celebration of August 10th; the haemorrhage was several times repeated the same day.

This judgment against Hornburg was in consequence of a criminal trial on account of his treatment of a woman suffering from a violent attack of pneumonia, and who did not die from his treatment, but only after she had for nine days been treated by a medical officer who was known to be one of the most violent opponents of Homeopathy.

The disease of Hornburg developed with an invincible violence and changed into actual pulmonary consumption, of which he died on February 4th, 1834. Attended by his more intimate friends and a great number of the inhabitants of Leipsic, his earthly remains were entombed on February 7th.

As a physician he was distinguished by a deep and active love for his career, by a rare acuteness and clearness of observation, exact knowledge of Homoeopathy, undisturbable equanimity, firmness and security in action whence he enjoyed the fairest success and extended recognition in a practice which was very wide and extended quite beyond the boundaries of Leipsic, yes, of Saxony.

As a man he was efficient, sincere, open, liberal and zealous. When the advancement and defense of what he considered to be the truth was at stake, he indeed not seldom appeared to be regardless of others; and the great good that was in him was enveloped in forms so rough, and he violated the laws of a higher and more subtle refinement, and of the necessary prudence and urbanity which may well be conjoined with the purest and most ardent zeal for the truth to such a degree that he only too often gave his friends as well as his enemies occasion to lament these foibles.

Constantine Hering says: (Hahnemannian Monthly, Vol. VII., p. 175)

Next came the great practitioner amongst the poor, Christian Gottlob Hornburg, one of the oldest disciples of Samuel Hahnemann, but who never could obtain a diploma, and therefore had to practice tinder certain persecutions (his box with medicine was once buried by the authorities with great éclat in a public place).

He it is whom we have to thank for the first cures of pleurisy and pneumonia with Aconite.

He had proved on himself and others, particularly women, for the second volume of the Materia Medica Pura, Causticum.

Pierre Augustus Rapou says of Hornburg: (Historie de la doc. Hom.,Vol. II., p. 141)

Christian Hornburg was among the number of the students at Leipsic who composed the first audience of Samuel Hahnemann.

He was like Carl Franz, one of those generous and rare dispositions who adopt frankly that which they take to be the truth, and do not hesitate at any sacrifice to reach it. Each one of these students followed a different branch of knowledge. Carl Gottlob Caspari devoted himself to didactic writings, Carl Franz to pharmaceutical researches, Hornburg selected a way more direct, sure and efficacious

  • that of practice.

Filled with the experience of Samuel Hahnemann he become a brilliant and successful practicing physician. To him belongs the glory of greatly contributing to the triumph of our doctrines by clinical results. It is the success that extended the growth of the Homeopathic laity, and gave real to effectually counterbalance the fury of the Allopathic physicians.

He died in 1833 of a neglected phthisis.

Frantz Hartmann says: (Med. Counselor, vol. XI., p. 198. Kleinert’s Geschichte der Homoopathie, p, 90)

Hornburg was a very clear headed fellow, of humble origin, who had been educated at the Lyceum at Chemnitz, where he had managed to not only pay his fees, but to assist his very poor parents by singing in the choir and by tutoring.

He lacked in finish, for he never had been able to associate intimately with persons of thorough culture and refinement ; during the time of my acquaintance with him he never could readily lift himself above the common place, at least not for any length of time, without feeling the pressure of his situation, and thus he found it difficult to move at ease in a refined circle.

His remarkable conversational powers, however, enabled him to cover this defect, since he knew better than anyone else to imitate and enact ridiculous situations, scenes and memorable incidents and stories with such a humor and power of mimicry that no one ever thought of weighing his uncouth expressions. figures of speech, or gestures.

If later this weakness became obvious, his happy cures stood him in good stead - a very talisman - and pleaded for him powerfully.

He thus gained a self-reliance and a certain tact in his appearance which at times became an almost recklessness: it was nothing unusual during his almost daily walks to one of the suburbs of Leipsic, where he commonly met prominent citizens, also daily guests, to make in the heat of conversation very imprudent speeches concerning the professors and officers of the medical faculty; if these remarks were received without dissent they were evidently repeated, as might be inferred from the severity of his examinations.

This course on the part of his examiners should have brought him to his senses and should have led him to be more cautious in his speech, but his intense zeal for Homeopathy, his firm faith in its superiority over the older methods of cure, the stimulating effect of Samuel Hahnemann’s lectures, the real pleasure manifested by Samuel Hahnemann when he repeated to him the sharp witticisms passed, only tended to confirm him in his chosen path; and thus his speeches grew in boldness and became still more cutting, led to his failure in his second examination, the proper examination for the doctor’s degree, and developed such a bitterness of wrathful indignation, that to the very day of his death he could not rid himself of it.

It was a pity about Hornburg, for in him a great and talented mind was lost. He did not use a very large number of remedies, but the few he employed he knew so thoroughly, and by constant use had so fully learned to understand their sphere of action, that with the few he accomplished much more than most others could with a large number of remedies less perfectly understood.

Of the so called antipsorics he only used Sulphur, Calcarea, Silicea, Nitric acid and a few others.

But he was eminently practical, and nature had been lavish to him in the bestowal of her gifts; often a few questions enabled him to recognize with certainty the disease, and to select, with unerring precision, the correct remedy.

To him the daily duty of a physician seemed a recreation, a matter of play; but in the sick room one could see at a glance the seriousness with which he devoted himself to his art, and one could not help loving and respecting him.

With a keenness of sight peculiar to himself he often selected the seemingly least important symptom as the one especially characteristic and most valuable in the selection of the remedy, and he seldom erred; with the same intuitive accuracy he would make the most daring prognosis, and point out medicinal aggravations from beginning to end.

I have often witnessed this, and have had many a warm discussion with him to combat this spirit of daring in him; but I never succeeded, for he would always meet me with a long list of satisfactory cures, looking upon unfavorable cases as the exception to the rule.

He demanded of others the same ability, and if they were not able to command the same measure of perfection he deemed them lazy; for it never occurred to him that he might be gifted above them.

As a man, to know Hornburg was to love and revere him; he was a faithful friend, good natured, sympathetic, frank, obliging, ever ready, to counsel and to aid; and only his manifold bitter experiences, the complete ignoring of his true worth, the slanders which followed him, the ever recurring intrigues which beset him, the whisperings of hate which he was forced to hear, furnished the first impulse to that growing distrust of all men, even of his best friends, which cast such a shadow upon the last few years of his life.

This was the man who, by his example and by his introducing me to Samuel Hahnemann, exerted so great all influence upon my whole life.

Perhaps even without him my inclination might have drawn me into the medical profession, but it is very doubtful if I should have embraced Homeopathy; for in those days to express faith in it exposed the student to all manner of ridicule.

Frantz Hartmann says that Hornburg was the earliest friend of his boyhood, and that when he at eighteen repaired to the Leipsic University he became Hornburg’s roommate, and in three months’ time had been introduced by him into the inner circle of Samuel Hahnemann’s patients.

Lohrbacher says: (Brit. Jour. Hom., Vol XXXII, p. 454)

Hornburg and John Ernst Stapf were the two to first become closely connected with Samuel Hahnemann.

Hornburg is represented to us as a man of great gifts, of extraordinary practical talent, which gave him much certainty in the diagnosis of disease, as well as in the discovery of the right remedy, so that he soon obtained the repute of a successful practitioner.

But he was deficient in refinement; his boyish manners, as well as his disrespectful behavior, especially toward all opponents of Homeopathy

  • he spared neither professor nor medical authorities created for him many enemies and drew upon him much persecution, whereby the latter part of his life was much embittered, and may have been in some respects unfavorable to the spread of Homeopathy. And yet I am not prepared to say that occasionally a rude attack at the proper time may not be more effectual in advancing a cause than a delicate diplomacy.

At all events, Hornburg, by his contributions to the provings of medicines, as well as by his mode of directing the attention of students to Homeopathy, has rendered permanent service to our cause.

This biography is extracted from the book of Thomas Lindsley Bradford: The Pioneers of Homeopathy 678 pages, Boericke Tafel (Philadelphia, 1897).