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Sudhoffs Arch. 2007;91(1):38-72.

[The origin, diffusion and development of healing doctrines in medical history--exemplified by homeopathy].

[Article in German]

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Institut für Geschichte der Medizin der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Lessingstrasse 2, D-80336 München.


As a paradigmatic case study of the origin, spread, and development of medical systems, this paper investigates the 200-years history of homeopathy from different perspectives of medical history. On the basis of new research on Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), first, a concise and critical overview on the principles, explanations, and implications of his doctrine is presented. The historical, conceptual, and social background of the founder of homeopathy is then elaborated in terms of history of medicine, science, philosophy, sociology, culture, and ideas, as well as theory of science, theory of communication, and sociology of science. The process of the world wide spread of homeopathy is examined from different points of view, ranging from history of heroes, institutions, professionalisation, politics, economics, religion, and organisations to history of patients, perception, and semiotics. Finally, a comparative approach to the different development and status of homeopathy in different countries results in the extraction of a set of crucial variables, such as charismatic personage, influential patronage, economic sponsorship, political protection, media support, and patients' demand, which might explane a major part of these differences. Eventually, the notorious splits of homeopathy's doctrine suggest the idea that--in analogy to theory of evolution--a variety of concurrent strains (rather than one monolithic block) of a doctrine may prove to be a kind of advantage for survival. In conclusion, acceptance and relevance of medical systems are determined by many factors. Since external ones are usually outweighing internal ones, medical history may offer a broader and more comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of their spread and development than clinical trials and scientific objection alone.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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