Hering, Constantine, 1800-1880

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1800-01-01
Death 1880-07-23
German

Biographical notes:

Constantine Hering, M.D., the father of homeopathy in America, was born on January 1, 1800 in Oschatz, Saxony, in Germany, the son of Magister Karl Gottlieb Hering who was both a musician and an author, and known for developing a “simplified system of teaching music to children, which was adopted by the schools in Germany,” (Eastman, p. 2). Hering’s earliest education was in classical studies, though he began his education in medicine at an early age at a surgical academy in Dresden in 1817. By 1820, he was studying at the University of Leipzig, where he became a dedicated practitioner of homeopathy and an advocate for Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathic medicine. Hering’s interest in homeopathy is traced back to a “dissecting wound” incurred during a postmortem examination, (Faber, p. 2). At the time of this accident such injuries were typically treated by amputation, but he refused and was instead treated successfully by homeopathy. Hering received the degree of doctor of medicine from the University of Wurzburg in 1826.

After his graduation from the University of Wurzburg, "he was appointed to go to Surinam, South America, by the King of Saxony, to make researches in Zoology and Botany,” (Eastman, p. 4). While there, he continued working with homeopathy, despite its lack of popularity, by lecturing in Paramaribo, working in a hospital and practicing in a leper colony.

In 1833, Hering immigrated to Philadelphia and opened a medical practice with a friend and former student, Dr. Bute. Together, they also founded the Hahnemannian Society of Philadelphia. In the years that followed, Hering actively promoted homeopathy and worked to create an appropriate school in which it could be taught. In 1835, along with several other doctors, he founded the North American Academy of Homeopathic Medicine in Allentown, Pennsylvania, often called the Allentown Academy, and served as its first president. The name of the Academy was changed to the North American Academy of the Homeopathic Healing Arts in 1836 and it continued until 1842. In 1838, the Homeopathic Medical Society of Philadelphia was founded and in 1848, with Drs. Jeanes and Williamson, Hering founded the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania. Hering’s "work in proving drugs was greater than that of any other physician,” (Eastman, p. 7) and he started the American Provers Union in 1852. In 1867, he started the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia. Hering was also involved in the publication of scholarly journals and in 1835, he published the first issue of the American Journal of Homeopathy . Other journals, such as the North American Homeopathic Journal and the Philadelphia Journal of Homeopathy were established in 1851 and 1852, respectively. Hering continued to practice medicine until his death on July 23, 1880.

Hering was a prolific writer and published a number of book length works, some of which include: Domestic Physician, (1835), Effects of Snake Poison, (1836), Proposition to Suppress Homeopathy, (1846), American Drug Provings, (1857), The Logic of Homeopathy, (1860s), and Materia Medica (1873). In addition to his medical career, Hering’s “special hero was the great Paracelsus of whose works he had the finest collection extant [and which] were secured by and deposited in the library of the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia," (Eastman, p. 8).

In a biographical sketch, Dr. Hering is described as “a model citizen and patriot, a humanitarian of the noblest kind, a German in soul and mind; once deeply rooted in home soil and richly nurtured by it to bloom and bring a thousand fold fruit among us here as an American citizen; a pioneer in a great and noble cause, the profession of healing in the best and truest meaning of the term," (Faber, p. 1).

According to one of his obituaries, Hering was married three times and had twelve children. His daughter, Melitta, married Dr. Calvin B. Knerr in 1873.

Calvin Knerr was born in 1847 in Claussville, Pennsylvania. He received a liberal arts education and taught briefly in a country school before pursuing medicine, which he did in 1865, graduating from Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia in 1869. While at Hahnemann, Knerr studied under Constantine Hering and the two became close friends. After graduating, he worked as Hering’s assistant, helping to edit Hering’s manuscript for The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica . Knerr was a devoted son-in-law, employee, colleague, and friend to Hering. He dedicated much energy to gathering, translating and preserving some of Hering’s papers and he also wrote and published Repertory of Hering’s Guiding Symptoms as well as a biography, The Life of Hering . Following Hering’s death in 1880, Knerr took over his practice. Calvin Knerr died in 1940.

Calvin and Melitta Hering Knerr had four children: Bayard, Harold, Mildred and Horace. Harold Knerr was a cartoonist and known for his comic strip, "The Katzenjammer Kids."

Bibliography:

Eastman, Arthur M., MD. "Life and Reminiscences of Dr. Constantine Hering." Hahnemannian Monthly : August, 1917. (Box 12, Folder 13)

Faber, Herman. "Constantine Hering, MD: A Biographical Sketch by Herman Faber of Philadelphia." Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy : June-August 1915. (Box 12, Folder 8)

Hering, Carl. "Chronology of Events Concerning the Life of Constantine Hering of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania." International Hahnemannian Association : 1919. (Box 12, Folder 16)

From the guide to the Constantine Hering and Calvin B. Knerr family papers, Bulk, 1820-1940, 1820-2003, (Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center)

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Subjects:

  • Education
  • Physicians
  • Medical education
  • Medicine
  • Homeopathy

Occupations:

  • Translator

Places:

  • Philadelphia (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • Allentown (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • Germany (as recorded)