Sue Young Histories

Adolph Heinrich Gerstel 1805 – 1890

September 25, 2009

Adolph Heinrich Gerstel 1805 – 1890Adolph Heinrich Gerstel 1805 – 1890 MD was a Czech orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy, Physician at the Hospital Guns, member of the Vienna Society of Homeopathic Physicians, and was elected an honorary member of the Institute at Philadelphia in 1876,

Gerstel was a student of Samuel Hahnemann, and one of his provers,

Gerstel was a colleague of Archhorn, Joseph Attomyr, Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Fleischmann, Frohlich, Gaspar, Clemens Hampe, M Hanusch, Landersmann, Low, Matthias Marenzeller, Clotar Moriz Mueller, Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, Pierre Augustus Rapou, Schaflin, George Schmid, A Schmidt, Schwarz, Tedesko, Viet, Walter, Philipp Anton Watzke, Franz Wurmb, Wurstl, and many others.

Gerstel practiced in Tischnowitz in Moravia, Brno and Vienna,

The first homeopathic physician to set up practice in Moravia was Adolph Heinrich Gerstel, a pupil of Samuel Hahnemann, who had treated cholera patients in Brno since 1831 and who continued to work as a medical practitioner and homeopath. In 1842, he relocated to Vienna where he joined the medical faculty.

The great enthusiasm with which homeopathy was received in Brno at the beginning of the 1830s is shown by a letter that Samuel Hahnemann wrote in 1832 in which he says: ‘The population of Brno is very much in favour of homeopathy.’

In northern Moravia it was predominantly the clergy who actively promoted homeopathy, with some clergymen even working as lay practitioners. The successful treatment of cholera in particular facilitated the breakthrough of homeopathy at the beginning of the 1830s, not only in Bohemia and Moravia.

The English homeopath Frederick Hervey Foster Quin arrived in 1831 in the small Moravian town of Tisnov in order to assist his colleagues Adolph Heinrich Gerstel, and M Hanusch, who had become sick, with treating the numerous cholera patients in the town.

According to the mayor of this town, Ernst Dieble, 680 of the 6671 inhabitants had contracted cholera. 331 of these patients were treated allopathically, but only 229 of these were cured. Of the 278 patients who received homeopathic therapy, apparently only 27 died.

The American Institute Transactions for 1891 contains the following :

Dr. Gerstel was elected an honorary member of the Institute at Philadelphia in 1876. He was contemporary with Constantine Hering, and was one of the earliest disciples of Samuel Hahnemann, and treated at Prague, the Asiatic cholera in 1831, homeopathically.

He was associated with the early homeopathists of Austria, and suffered with them in the persecutions by the government. He took an active part in the renowned Austrian Provers Union, and contributed to the literature of our school in many ways.

Several reports were presented from him to the World’s Homoeopathic Convention in 1876. He died in August last, but the circumstances attending the event have not been communicated.

His name appears on the Zeitung list of 1832, at which time he was practicing Homeopathy at Brunn. Frederick Hervey Foster Quin also mentions him in the Directory of his list (1834).

The following interesting account by Dr. Gerstel of the early days of the cholera appeared in the Zeitschrift f. hom. Klinik and was translated into the _British Journal _for April, 1855 :

“The cholera, this destroying angel of humanity, numbering thousands among its victims, appears henceforth to become the angel of salvation, for it is owing to its prevalence that Homeopathy has been brought into estimation, has obtained admission into circles, and been listened to by those to whom it had hitherto seemed to be an illegitimate object for inquiry.

“The homeopathic mode of treatment of Samuel Hahnemann was prohibited in Austria by a decree of the Chancellor’s Court of the 2d of October, 1819. Notwithstanding this, the cholera was successfully treated in 1831 by Austrian Homeopathists in Galicia, Moravia, Austria, Bohemia and Hungary.

“I was permitted to have a large proportion of patients under my care, and thus, in the space of less than three months, treated near 300 cases of cholera in different villages, in which it had shown itself of a most inveterate character. The extremely fortunate results obtained, and which there for the most part officially certified, only showed 32 deaths (Archiv. XI 2, 121 ; 3, 58 ; XII, 1, 145 - Frederick Hervey Foster Quin. Du Traitement Homoeopathique du Choléra, Paris, 1832. p. 32), and had for effect that notwithstanding the interdiction of the commission by the chief magistrate of Prague, the faculty of medicine had to discuss the question whether my petition, that a portion of the hospital should be allotted for cases of cholera, should he granted.

“A breach of etiquette which I committed on that occasion - I neglected to pay a visit at the right time to a person of importance - may possibly have contributed to my petition being unattended with any result. A proposal was made to me to practice under the control of a district superintendent, Dr. Nushard, within a certain district in order to establish proofs of the success of the homeopathic treatment - an offer which I declined.

“Another consequence of these results obtained by me was that the Bavarian ministry, having received information from private sources of my success, sent Mathias Roth from Munich to Austria to collect information respecting the homeopathic treatment of cholera, and embody it in a report. - (Mathias Roth Die homöopath. Heilkunst in ihrer. Anwendung gegen die Cholera, 1833.)

“The cholera epidemic of 1836 was of still greater benefit to Homeopathy. It raged with great violence in Vienna. The prohibition of 1819 still hung over us Austrians, like the sword of Damocles, although, at least in the chief cities, it was not brought into practical operation.

“As to allopathic treatment, the practitioners were, as formerly, still groping in the dark. The most disproportionately favorable results obtained by Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Fleischmann in the hospital of the Grey Sisters of Gumpendorf in Vienna excited such great attention, that, its Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Fleischmann himself relates (Hyg. 8, 316), he was commissioned to lay before the court a report upon the cholera, and the best mode of treatment in accordance with his experience.

“The immediate result obtained was the removal of the prohibition to practice Homeopathy in Austria in February, 1837. The liberty to dispense the dilutions and triturations was subsequently accorded.

“It is well known what progress the new system of medicine has since made, especially the physiological school, which may be said to have originated in Vienna. The increasing simplicity of allopathic treatment, when considered in reference, on the one hand to a prominent feature, expectant medicine, or oil the other to the mania for specific remedies is really attributable, not so much to principles of physiological pathology, but much more to the facts as shown by homeopathic treatment, which can no longer be either denied or ignored.

“My experience has led me to believe that the operation of these circumstances has caused in many places, and especially in Vienna, a closer approximation between well-informed Allopaths and rational Homeopaths. I was delighted to find such a feeling existing in Brunn, where I was residing till the year 1842.

“Science and the good cause, however, demand something more. It cannot be doubted that, now having attained the present position, stirring energy combined with honest openness, discretion and firmness, with an impartial and unprejudiced critical estimation of the performances of each school, must lead to a further and growing recognition of homeopathic principles on the part of the old school.

“Impressed with this conviction, the cholera again afforded me, a favorable opportunity of bringing Homeopathy one step nearer to this end. In the College of Physicians of this place there was a very praiseworthy regulation; that, after the termination of the usual business, any person might read a medical or scientific paper of which he had previously given notice, on which occasion frequent discussions ensued.

“At the commencement of the present cholera epidemic. a resolution was adopted on the 12 th of October, that during the present epidemic, a weekly meeting should he held, without invitation, at which an unrestricted discussion should be allowed, with a mutual interchange of observations: at the same time that a weekly medical journal should be published, in the name of the college, containing the communications of both parties on the nature and treatment of tile epidemic.

“It would not be uninteresting to make here an abstract of the most important modes of’ treatment adopted: to do so, however, would not correspond with the object of this paper, even if space allowed, I therefore limit myself to the following: One of the physicians, a Dr. Horst, announced that he had reason to believe cholera to be a catarrh of the kidneys, and that his treatment, based upon that hypothesis, had been crowned with great success; it was therefore his intention to read a paper before the College of Physicians.

“At the meeting on the 7 th of November, he endeavored, by demonstrating the physiology of the kidneys, with the aid of diagrams, to render his hypothesis intelligible, and then proceeded to describe his treatment as follows: Cataplasma emolientia to the region of the kidneys ; an infus. rad. Ipec. with flor. Chamom. (of the former 4 grains, of the latter one grain in 4 ounces of liquid; does not this seem to be an inclination towards Homeopathy with an effort toward concealment ? G.); then tr. Veratri alba, gtt. sex, in a glass of water, a tablespoonful every half hour, with the observation. that by the employment of this remedy he has seen very dangerous cases of vomiting recover.

“Before these communications were made I had determined to make use of these meetings and introduce the subject of Homeopathy, the more so as I was well aware that it would be well received by a large portion of the younger colleagues. Still I was desirous for some time to follow in the wake of these transactions.

“Although I had many cases of choleric disease under treatment during the epidemic, I had not had any of real cholera, still I could not allow this opportunity to pass of fulfilling my intention to speak earnestly on the subject of the homeopathic treatment of this disease at the next meeting. I must, however, express my thanks to our present sent dean, Counsellor Dr. Knob, whom I had previously informed of my intention, who, besides being very polite, requested I would furnish him with a paper for the next number of the journal.

“I therefore spoke at the meeting of the 14 th of November, observing that it was the object of these meetings to exchange observations on the treatment of cholera, on which point there seemed to be now some degree of approximation, as well as to receive contributions for future discussion.

“I therefore thought it my duty to explain its homeopathic treatment, which I had already adopted in 1831, and which, in fact, I use exclusively in all other forms of disease. An unprejudiced auditory, really anxious on the subject, would impartially weigh the observations I had to make; but still, to avoid any misconceptions, I must beg previously to remark, that it is of frequent occurrence to consider Homeopathy nothing more than a difference of dose, whereas the dose is no essential constituent of homeopathic treatment, the most essential principle being the proper selection of the remedy according to the law of similarity, as shown by the character of the medicine in its physiological and toxicological provings.

“In speaking further of specific remedies, I do not wish the term to be applied in its usual acceptation, that there is any specific remedy for cholera without due consideration of the different stages, but that there are specifics for the different stages of cholera.

“I observed, moreover, that in homeopathic therapeutics one remedy is used alone, without any other as an adjunct, whether internally or externally, excepting in those instances in which two remedies are clearly indicated, when they are given alternatively.

“With regard to the observations I had made respecting the dose, they were to be considered as general, and not referring to the remedies I was about to name, but I should be ready at the conclusion of my paper, if desired, to give an further explanation.

“After this introduction I named the following remedies in the order I considered them indicated in cholera: Camphor, Phosphorus, Phos ac, Ipecac, Veratrum, Cuprum, Secale, Arsenicum, Carbo veg, Conium, Nicotiana (and Nicotin), and hydrocyanicum acid.

“I then proceeded to describe cholera and its different stages, from the precursory symptoms and their varieties to the stage of collapse, noticing, as I went on, the characteristic indications for the employment of the corresponding remedies. To repeat all that was said on this subject is not the object of this paper, and would present nothing new to the readers of this journal.

“At the conclusion of my paper, which was listened to with the greatest attention and which met with much approbation as I was informed by several Allopathists, I was questioned by one of the members as to the dose, and with the following intimation: he must confess he now heard of the remedies, the employment of which in cholera had been entirely unknown to him. for example, Cuprum acet, Nicotin, etc.; but surely, it cannot be indifferent as to what doses of these remedies are given.

“I here mentioned the doses of each of the above named medicines, as I was in the habit of dispensing them, usually, with the exception of Camphor, from the 1st to the 6th decimal dilution. I do not intend to call in question the action of the higher dilutions, but only remark that the above dilutions were those which I used exclusively in 1831.

“No further observation was passed. I do not, however, flatter myself that much was done, on this occasion, in favor of Homeopathy, and am resolved that the subject shall not be forgotten. The scanty seed has already taken root, and will, with proper culture, still bear some fruit; on my part at least every effort shall be made to secure success.

“That the seed lead taken root was shown by the fact that on the 5th of December the subject of Homeopathy was again referred to. A colleague who had only been in Vienna a few weeks, was of the opinion that it would be very interesting if an impartial comparison of the two methods of treatment could be made. He was an Eclectic and also practiced Homeopathy, and thought that in ordinary cases it was more beneficial, but that in severe cases, especially in aged people, in children and cachectic subjects, the allopathic treatment was much to be preferred.

“He was not prepared to maintain that the success obtained in the cases mentioned was strictly attributable to the homeopathic remedies, for Skoda remarks, that even the evacuations may prove to be the crisis of the disorder; (Skoda makes no such observation. G.); therefore the result would he so much the more favorable, the more simply the cholera is treated.

“Another colleague sitting near to me made this remark nearly audible to all; “That is a contradiction in thesi.”

“Dr. Melicher, (brother of our late and much lamented Berlin colleague) made a reply. He confirmed, from his own experience, what had been stated by me as to the homeopathic treatment of cholera, still he would not exclusively speak in favor of Homeopathy; it was the duty of every physician to make himself acquainted with every method of treatment, Allopathy, Homeopathy, Hydropathy, Gymnastics and Electricity, etc. to be able to employ either the one or the other, but always with the utmost consideration.

“In aged persons and cachectic subjects, any remedy would scarcely be of any service; he had obtained great success in the homeopathic treatment of cholera in children, and mentioned a family in which four children were violently attacked with cholera, but who were cured by Homeopathy.

Of Veratrum, which he considered had an especial specific relation to cholera, he remarked that Hippocrates had used it in a very severe case of cholera, but that the medicine had since been entirely forgotten; great merit was to be attributed to Samuel Hahnemann for again bringing it into notice.

“He promised in a future paper to detail in full his experience of the treatment of cholera. An assistant physician of the general hospital stated that in reference to the treatment, he considered Camphor as especially valuable, for he had given a strong solution of it mixed with Acetic ether (as he informed me only on account of its agreeable taste) in drop doses, and then mentioned some surprising cases of cholera spasmodica, which without diarrhoea would have passed into collapse.

“I expressed my determined opposition to these mixtures, and repeatedly drew attention to the fact, that the benefit was solely owing to Camphor: that it was only of use in some forms of the disease, and that it was not by any means the sole cholera medicine.

“I then remarked that the object of my communication was not, to secure a preference for my mode of treatment, but I wished it rather to be considered as a contribution to cholera therapeutics.

“Criticism and the decision upon this subject play be put oft, to another time. We are, however, desirous of pursuing sine ira et studio our way still further, and to push forward the good cause with vigor and honor. (Brit. Jour. Hom., 13, 328 ; Am. Inst. Trans., 1801 ; Zeit. Hom. Klinik., 1855)

Gestel’s Obituary is in the Hahnemannian Monthly Volume 26 in 1891,

Gerstel wrote Studium der Medizin in Prag, spezialisierte sich nach seiner Promotion zunächst auf die Cholera, wurde später praktischer homöopathischer Arzt. Siedelte 1842 nach Wien über, Wissenschaftliche Begründung des Principes der Homöopathie, and he submitted cases and articles to various homeopathic publications,

Of interest:

A particularly valuable addition to the records of Dr. Adolph Henry Gerstel  (1805-1890) and his son Gustav (* 1839) and grandson, Gustav Friedrich (*1879), who in 1842 relocate from Prague to Vienna, is documented, particularly in the public health sector… The collection of the family Gerstel was bought in 2005 from an auction house…