1. Hahnemann’s formative years

Duration of the module: 3 minutes
Voice: Malcolm Russell
Music: Yann Tiersen, “Comptine d’un autre ete” – L’apres-midi

What the narrator says

Samuel Hahnemann was born on 10 April 1755 in Meissen, Saxony, near the city of Dresden.

Talented artists were summoned to Meissen to work in its celebrated porcelain factory and attached art school. It is a measure of their importance that Christian Gottfried Hahnemann and his brother were amongst those asked to work there. Christian’s first marriage ended with the untimely death of his wife only nine months after their marriage, giving birth to twins, neither of whom survived. Two years later, in 1750, he married Johanna Christiana Spiess, with whom he had four children including Samuel, his third child, born in 1755.

There were two figures of significant influence in Samuel’s youth: his father, who was an important reference for his moral education, and the pastor Johan Anton Trinius, whose son married Hahnemann’s sister Charlotte, and whom he frequently encountered in the family circle. Hahnemann wrote a two-page dedication in Trinius’ honour in the preface of his doctoral thesis.

Hahnemann was first enrolled at the exceptional Franciscan Town School of Meissen, where he learned Latin and foreign languages; at the age of 16, he moved to the Prince’s School of Saint-Afra where, in addition to Greek and Latin, foreign languages were again a major part of the curriculum. His tuition fees there were waived in recognition of the young Samuel’s academic potential and because his father was unable to finance his continuing education, following the loss of his income as a result of the sacking of Meissen and the looting of its famous factory by the Prussians during the Seven Years War.

To mark the completion of his school education in 1775, Hahnemann wrote a dissertation in Latin on “the wonderful construction of the human hand”, in which he argued that the hand of man was evidence of Divine Providence. This pre-Darwinian interpretation reflects the prevailing philosophy in Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century.