Johan Ernst Stapf was born September 9, 1788, at Naumburg. His father, Johann Gothofredus Stapf, was first pastor to the church of Mary Magdalen. In 1806 Stapf entered Leipzig University.
Johann Stapf was the first to embrace the principles of Hahnemann. Rapou says:
"Stapf is the most ancient disciple of Hahnemann and more celebrated than the others. He began his homeopathic study in 1811, and in 1812 practiced only with the remedies mentioned in the first volume of the Materia Medica Pura. He was at the time the only partisan of our method, and he developed it well."
It is reported that eventually he only used olfaction of the higher potencies to administer the remedies. He commenced his studies of the high potencies in 1843 and published the results in June 1844.
Hartmann, in speaking of the original Provers' Union in the year 1814, says:
"Stapf was no longer living in Leipsic, but only came occasionally from Naumburg, where he was settled. The benevolence beaming from his eyes readily won for him the hearts of all. A more intimate acquaintance with him soon showed that in every respect he was far in advance of us in knowledge, although he had not long been honored with the title of doctor, and the regard was awarded to him unasked for, which was due to his extensive scientific achievements and his natural talents as a physician.
His conversation was instructive in more respects than one, and he seemed hardly conscious of his superiority over others, while he was all the more esteemed on account of this very modesty."
Johann Stapf started the first Homeopathic journal. In 1822 he became the editor of the Archiv fur die homoopathische Heilkunst. It was published at Leipsig, three times a year. He continued as its editor until 1839. It was the journal of the German Homeopathic Union. He also published several pamphlets upon the subject of Homeopathy. In 1829 he collected and edited the writings of Hahnemann which he issued under the title: Kleine medicinische Schriften, von Samuel Hahnemann. Dresden. Arnold. 1829.
This book was presented to Hahnemann on the occasion of his fiftieth Doctor-Jubilee, August 10, 1829. He also published a book known as Stapf's additions to the Materia Medica Pura. It is a collection of the provings originally published in the first fifteen volumes of the Archiv. Stapf wrote for the Archiv under the nom de plume of 'Philalethes'.
Hahnemann wrote letters to him, asking him about the articles and also praising them. In the sixth volume of the Archiv are several essays, and in one of them he describes his conversion to Homeopathy, which was by reading the Organon soon after its publication.
Similar to Hahnemann, Stapf was persecuted for the homeopathic practice of medicine. Ameke says:
"Hahnemann's oldest admirer and disciple, Stapf, of Naumburg, met with a similar fate. He, too, was scorned and ridiculed in every possible way, living for many years under a ban among his professional brethren. Though he had his days of persecution, Stapf was eventually regarded by his colleagues as a physician with a European reputation and was given their friendship."
Stapf was a pure Homeopath. He was a prover of 32 medicines and enthusiastic about his use of Lachesis. In 1830, Hering introduced this remedy to Europe through Stapf, who prepared it for the German Homeopaths. Stapf, like Hahnemann, considered the habits of the patient regarding coffee, wine, and tobacco.
Being Hahnemann's first pupil Stapf was much loved by him. Hahnemann continued to correspond with him until the day of his death, and always showed the greatest confidence in him and his medical methods.
While with the most of his pupils he was at times cold and distant, nowhere in his writings is there shown the least difference of opinion between Hahnemann and Stapf. It was to Stapf, in connection with Gross, that Hahnemann first divulged the secret of the chronic diseases, or psora theory, calling them to Koethen for this purpose in 1829.
Lorbacher says of Stapf:
"Endowed with brilliant talents, a wealth of knowledge, and personal amiability, he was the active and vivifying element in the Union, for which his peculiar and somewhat mercurial vivacity and his sparkling wit eminently qualified him. A firm friendship, which nothing could disturb, bound him to his Master to the end.
By his participation in the provings of medicines and the great number of accurate and reliable symptoms he contributed, as well as by his Archiv and the number of scientific articles he furnished towards the foundation and establishment of the new doctrine, he has raised a lasting monument to his memory."
Stapf died at Kosen, on July 11, 1860, in his seventy-first year. Lutze thus chronicles his death:
"On the 11th of July, 1860, there died at Kosen the first and greatest scholar of Hahnemann, the Sachsisch Meining'sche Medizinalrath Dr. Johann Ernst Stapf, in his seventy-first year. Peace to his ashes, and rest, now his long pilgrimage is over."