Sue Young Histories

Friederich Maximillian Bernhardt Fincke 1821 - 1906

July 10, 2009

Friederich Maximillian Bernhardt Fincke 1821 - 1906 MD was a German orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy and immigrated to America to become a member of The American Institute of Homeopathy, Chairman of The International Hahnemannian Association, and Secretary of the King’s County Homeopathic Medical Society,

Fincke was a patient of Reverend William Taube, who treated him for typhoid fever and then taught him homeopathy.

In 1869, Fincke invented a potentising machines to prepare the higher potency homeopathic remedies, following on from the work of Caspar Julius Jenichen, Simon Nicolaievitch von Korsakoff, Thomas Skinner, and Samuel Swan. No doubt Edward William Berridge** **was also part of this mix, in America at this time to gain his homeopathic qualifications, having just left his post as a Medical Officer at Liverpool Homeopathic Dispensary, and this development would inspire the work of that master of high dilutionists, James Tyler Kent in the 1880s.

Fincke proved the homeopathic remedies x-ray, and Saccharum lactis, and the imponderable remedy Sol (sunshine), and Oxalic acid, and Thlaspi bursa pastoris, and Camphor and Cuprum,

Fincke was also a musical viruoso, and he wrote voluminously and enjoyed a World wide coresspondence. In 1850, the Widow Taube, a fine singer with an alto voice, was treated by Fincke  for a problem in her throat, and he noted that she had had a left breast lump cured by homeopathy ‘many years ago’ (presumably by her relative Johann Taubes Ritter von Lebenswarth?)

Fincke was the teacher of Stuart Close, and he was a colleague of B L B Baylies, Clemens Maria Franz Baron von Boenninghausen, Draper, Carroll Dunham, Post, Valentine Mott, Phineas P  Wells,

Fincke practiced at 195 Schermerhon Street, Brooklyn, New York, and at 92 Livingston Street, Brooklyn.

Friederich Maximillian Bernhardt Fincke was born January 7, 1821 in Trauen, Saxony (Germany). He was educated at the Gymnasium (high school) at Plauen, where his father was the director.

Young Bernhardt was an exceptional student of mathematics, literature and languages. Circumstances led to his employment as an accountant in Plauen and then in Frankfort, where he moved in 1846.

While convalescing from an attack of typhoid in Frankfort, he was visited by Reverend William Taube, a follower of Samuel Hahnemann. Fincke studied under Reverend William Taube learning Samuel Hahnemann’s method of preparing medicines. At this time Fincke potentized and prepared a set of medicines for his own use and experimentation.

In 1851, while attending a meeting of the Central Society of Homeopathic Physicians in Leipzig, Fincke met Clemens Maria Franz Baron von Boenninghausen, who told him “The United States is the place for you, young man”. There he could finish his medical education and continue his studies of high potencies unhindered.

After his arrival in New York in 1852, Fincke enrolled in the Homeopathic Medical College of New York, graduating in 1854. He had studied under Draper, Post, and the famous Valentine Mott, who in a letter of introduction, said of Fincke, “I have never known him surpassed among the thousands I have had opportunity to examine”.

Fincke began his practice in Brooklyn, NY, where he was soon to become a stalwart Hahnemannian Homeopath, and an intimate friend of Phineas P  Wells and Carroll Dunham. He became a member of The American Institute of Homeopathy in 1855 and a member of The International Hahnemannian Association in 1890.

He was Chairman of The International Hahnemannian Association’s Bureau of Homeopathic Philosophy, and President of the association in

  1. He became a close associate of Stuart Close and B L B Baylies, all of them members of the Brooklyn Hahnemannian Union.

Stuart Close states that Fincke contributed 100’s of articles to the literature in a 50 year period. His papers can be found in The International Hahnemannian Association and The American Institute of Homeopathy Transactions and throughout the Medical Advance, Homeopathic Physician, The Organon, and American Homeopathic Review.

One of his most notable papers is the proving of x-ray made by members of the Brooklyn Hahnemannian Union, and published in The International Hahnemannian Association Transactions for 1897.

Confining himself to office practice, Fincke was devoted to writing, and more so, to his experiments with neural analysis (a method of objectively demonstrating the action of potencies). Fincke carried out experiments, the results of which were published in The International Hahnemannian Association Transactions, concerning the preparation and proving of high potencies.

Fincke had begun his work with the potencies while still in Germany, and by 1860 had presented a paper on Homeopathic Notation to The American Institute of Homeopathy, which detailed the method of preparation and notation of the potencies of Samuel Hahnemann, Carl Julius Aegidi, Simon Nicolaievitch von Korsakoff, Moritz Wilhelm Mueller, Mathias Roth, Lehrmann, Starke, Constantine Hering, Lentz, Benoit Jules Mure, Meissner, Jacob Jeanes, Johan Joseph Wilhelm Lux, Arthur Ernst Lutze, Joslin, Roellingk, Rouux, et al., and a proposed system of notation for general use. Also detailed were several methods he himself used to make potencies.

1865 saw the publication of his On High Potencies and Homœopathics, published by A J  Tafel, at that time the sole agent for his potencies. Fincke later revealed that A J  Tafel had offered to collect and publish the former’s cases from The American Homeopathic Review in book form to serve as a good advertisement for the sale of the potencies.

William Radde approached Fincke soon after the publication of _On High Potencies and Homœopathics_, demanding he, Fincke, expunge his statements to the effect that William Radde’s edition of the Samuel Stratton translation of the _Organon_ was untrue, as it would stop sales. Fincke refused and William Radde went to A J  Tafel with the ultimatum to either discontinue the sale of Fincke potencies or lose his trade with William Radde. Thereafter, Fincke’s brother, an attorney, handled the sales.

In a memorial notice of Fincke’s death, it was claimed that he had invented one of the best potentizing machines that had ever been made, and that his potencies were recognized as the “best wherever Homeopathy is known”.

Stuart Close stated the Fincke potencies “…furnished our greatest prescribers the means of performing their cures for nearly forty years, and which will be sufficient, with proper care, for the use of the profession for all time to come”.

Fincke was according to the Medical Advance obituary, “the acknowledged leader of the homeopathic school in expounding the philosophical work of Samuel Hahnemann”. Indeed, he had translated the _Organon_ which was serialized in Hitchcock’s Journal of Homeopathics, the demise of which, left the work undone. The manuscript is extant and publication imminent.

Stuart Close relates that Fincke lived the life of a recluse, little known to members of the profession in his own city. “He was of a sensitive, retiring disposition, and slow to give his confidence. But once bestowed, his friendship never wavered”. Though somewhat estranged from Carroll Dunham over the latter’s liberal views, he remained his friend until Carroll Dunham’s untimely death in 1877.

In defense of high potency provings Fincke stated (Medical Advance, Mar. 1892): “These objectors will have to learn that the experiment upon a healthy sensitive subject is worth as much and more than the experiments upon non sensitives with crude substances and low potencies in large doses, because their symptoms are more exactly defined, and of greater variety and number.

“They have yet to learn that the most interesting part of humanity, perhaps one half of it, are those individuals endowed with greater sensitivity than the other half. This quality is not confined to the high or low in rank, to the strong or weak, to the professional or working man , to the rich or poor.

“It is not an accompaniment of sickness called hysteria, or owing to a freak of nature called idiosyncracy, but it depends upon a natural organization which in some people is higher and finer than in others, especially in regard to the nervous system”.

Fincke died on October 21, 1906 in Brooklyn, NY.

Fincke Potentisers 1869 and 1889 - details from Remedia Hoompathie: In the year 1865 Fincke published a paper on the invention of his potentizing machine with which he produced fluxion potencies.

Earlier he had dealt with mechanical potentizing in a series of preliminary experiments where he tried to use the force of a steel spring under tension. With his fluxion potencies Fincke was also the first manufacturer who prepared far higher dilutions than C200.

The first machine, which he used until 1869, consisted of a thin tube, a glass and a graduated vessel. Tap water flowed through the tube into the vial. From there the water flowed into the measuring vessel whose graduation showed the respective potency level. With this system Fincke produced rather irregular potency levels such as 16C, 11M, 19M, 23M, 37M, 47M, 103M etc.

In the course of time the inventor started doubting the efficiency of his method:

By injecting the liquid into the potentizing vial the remedy could easily be soiled. The uncommon range of potency levels The measuring of potency levels based upon the water passing through

In 1869 he therefore disposed of all his remedies prepared up to then and developed a machine with which he manufactured his well known “Fincke High Potencies”: There it was essential to measure the volume of the medicine carrier before it would flow into the vial.

As he had his machine patented in 1869, it was not possible for a long time to find out closer details on the way of potentizing. James Tyler Kent, however, reported on their properties, “The Fincke High Potencies never failed me; they act quickly, long and deeply”.

Fincke writes about his method, “It differs in many respect from the other methods known - but in one essential point the Hahnemanian mode of preparation has been preserved and perfected and that is by adhering rigidly to the centesimal scale.”

And exactly there he was mistaken because his method differed considerably from Samuel Hahnemann’s multi vial method. He used the continuous method where the glass is continuously passed through, thus “steps“ were simply out of the question. He did not use lactose for the trituration of the basic substances because he thought it would have too much medicinal efficacy itself.

Ethanol would evaporate too quickly and therefore increase the potency level unintentionally. Moreover, it would be too expensive because for a Fincke CM 5000 Drachmen ~ 17kg ethanol (1 Drachme = 3 Scrupel = 3.888g) would be needed.

He manufactured the initial potencies up to C30 with ethanol, then he worked with distilled water, which he soon replaced by Nassau water from Brooklyn, i.e. tap water from his surgery, which was the cheapest way.

The increasing success of his remedies was proof of his theory that by potentizing a C30 the spirit of the remedy becomes an integral part of the carrier to such an extent that it cannot be destroyed by external influences.

Thus he was of the opinion that possibly existing contaminants in the Nassau water would not influence the efficacy negatively. “Each water has an individuality of its own that does not interfere with the action of high potencies in using it as vehicle for potentization.”

When potentizing the first steps, Fincke diluted with ethanol in a ratio of 1:100 and shook the vial 180 times in dactylus rhythm. Then he emptied the vial with two vigorous downward strokes and refilled the vial with 99T ethanol. In case of watery remedies he potentized up to C6 using this method, in case of fatty remedies up to C30, which now represented his “initial potencies”.

Now he continued working with the apparatus depicted above. It consisted of a stock vessel (500ml, 5l or 20l) with graduations. A glass tube was placed inside which extended to the bottom of the bottle and rose out of the bottle ending in a U-bend. It was used for emptying the bottle. It stretched beyond the bottom of the bottle by approximately 2.5cm and a rubber tube connected it to the regulator, a glass tube tapering considerably at its end.

This tube stretched to the bottom of the vial which was set in a wooden holding device on a draining channel. When starting, the outlet was filled with water from the stock vessel, the regulator tube was connected and put into the vial moistened with “initial potency”. When the potentization had been completed, Fincke emptied the glass with two vigorous shaking strokes and refilled it with 95% ethanol. After that he vigorously shook it two times in dactylus rhythm… He manufactured the last remedy in 1905.

His remedies were always administered as globules. In an article on the manufacture of high potencies Adolph Lippe wrote in 1868, “Lehrmann’s 200th potencies act very similarly to the 30th of Samuel Hahnemann, Caspar Julius Jenichen’s act much more intensely, and Fincke’s far surpass them as to intensity.”

With his method Fincke caused a sensation. In 1941 W W  Robinson stated, “The discovery by Fincke that the “fluxion” or continuous flow of water through a receptacle holding a fixed quantity enabled attenuations to be prepared without succussion produced wide contention on the part of those who saw in such an accomplishment a radical contention from what had long been accepted as an indispensable part of the attenuating procedure.

“But whatever the opinions, the fact remains that machines for making high attenuations became a reality and the reports of their clinical application were uniformly satisfactory.”

Fincke’s Obituary is in The Pacific Coast Journal of Homeopathy in 1906.

Fincke wrote Clinical Cases, On High Potencies and Homœopathics, he translated the 5th Edition of the Organon by Samuel Hahnemann, and he sumbitted cases and articles to various homeopathic publications.

Of interest:

Fred WD Fincke MD, graduate of the Denver Homeopathic College in 1901, member of the faculty of the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College, and Clinical Instructor in the Diseases of Children.


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