Clemens Von Boenninghausen

Clemens Von Boenninghausen, MD

(1785 - 1864)

H.A Roberts and A.C. Wilson

Baron Clemens Maria Franz von Boenninghausen was born in the Netherlands on a family estate of his father. The family traced its lineage through Westphalia and Austrian ancestry, one ancestor having been appointed as Field Marshal by Ferdinand II of Austria in 1632. Since for centuries the family had devoted themselves to military careers the family fortunes were but moderate.

His early life was spent in the open, and he entered rather late upon his education, but after once starting, his progress was rapid. He graduated from the Dutch university at Gröningen with the degree of Doctor of Civil and Criminal Law, and thereafter for several years he filled increasingly influential and arduous positions at the court of Louis Napoleon, King of Holland, remaining in the Dutch Civil Service until the resignation of the king in 1810, when Boenninghausen too retired from the Dutch service.

In 1812 he married and went to one of the family estates in what later became western Prussia. He devoted much thought to developing the state agriculturally, and became greatly interested in agriculture and allied sciences, particularly botany. Through his interest in the development of agricultural resources he came in touch with the most prominent agriculturists of Germany, and he formed the first agricultural society in the western part of Germany.

At the reorganization of the Prussian provinces of Rhineland and Westphalia in 1816 he was offered the position of President of the Provincial Court of Justice for the Westphalia district. As a part of these duties he was called upon to act as the sole Judicial President in the evaluation of land in the two provinces, because of his technical knowledge of agriculture and land values. This work necessitated much traveling, and later his appointment as one of the General Commissioners kept him traveling throughout the provinces almost constantly.

Boenninghausen made diligent use of these opportunities to study the flora of the provinces, and he published a book covering the abundant flora in these districts which called to him the attention of some of the best botanists of Europe; these botanists came into even closer touch with him upon his appointment, at about this time, as Director of the Botanical Gardens at Münster. His agricultural and botanical writings brought him the honor of diplomas in many learned societies and two prominent botanists of that day each named a genus of plants after him.

In 1827 he suffered a derangement of health, which had hitherto been excellent. Two of the most celebrated physicians obtainable declared this to be purulent tuberculosis. His health continued to decline until the spring of 1828, when all hope of his recovery was given up. At this time he wrote a farewell letter to his close botanical friend, A. Weihe, M.D., who was first a homoeopathic physician although Boenninghausen was ignorant of the fact, their whole correspondence having touched on botanical, not medical, subjects.

Weihe was deeply moved by the news and answered Boenninghausen's letter immediately, requesting a detailed account of his symptoms and expressing the hope that by means of the newly found curative method he might be able to save a friend whom he valued so highly. In response to the reply which Boenninghausen sent to this letter, Weihe sent some Pulsatilla which Boenninghausen took according to the directions, following also the course of advice which Weihe gave him regarding hygienic measures. Boenninghausen's recovery was gradual but constant, so that by the end of the summer he was considered as cured.

This event bred in Boenninghausen a firm belief in the results of homoeopathic treatment, and he looked well into the matter. He became thoroughly interested in the principles of the new method of healing and did his best to create an interest in homoeopathy among the physicians with whom he came in contact, as he himself was one of the founders of the medical society at Münster; but they were deaf to his arguments, and he himself set out to master the subject through such books as he could procure.

In his university days he had had some medical lore, although he was not an approved physician. Two of the most aged physicians eventually became interested in the subject of homoeopathy through Boenninghausen and were faithful to homoeopathy during the remainder of their lives. By this time Boenninghausen's fame had spread to France, Holland and America, and he had gained many converts to the new doctrine of healing among physicians in these lands, by correspondence and literary efforts.

During this time, not being an approved physician, he had practiced little but instead devoted himself to furthering the cause by his literary efforts, which were extended in the effort of making the work of practicing homoeopathy easier. At this time, you will remember, there was no short way to approach the study of homoeopathy.

No repertories, save a brief one in Latin by Samuel Hahnemann himself, had been published as an index to point the way to the indicated homoeopathic remedy, and many hours must have been devoted to the study of remedy after remedy before the true picture was seen. Jahr did not publish his first repertory until 1834, and in his fourth edition he writes a preface in which he gives Boenninghausen credit for the system of evaluating the remedies which he (Jahr) had only then begun to use; this fourth edition was published in 1851.

King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, under date of July 11, 1843, issued to Boenninghausen a document empowering him to practice medicine without any restraint.

From 1830 Boenninghausen was in close touch with Hahnemann, until the close of Hahnemann's life, and as long as Boenninghausen lived he kept in close touch with all those practicing homoeopathy. However, his literary work was much hampered by the permission to practice freely, and he did not publish his books as frequently after that event, although he spent much time at that labor.

It is interesting to note that his earliest works found instant circulation among those interested in the new doctrine and almost every practicing homoeopath had Boenninghausen's works in his library.

Boenninghausen's works in the order of their appearance are listed here:

After the proclamation empowering him to practice medicine, Boenninghausen founded the society for homoeopathic physicians in Westphalia, which flourished for many years under the interest which was roused in the homoeopaths whom Boenninghausen drew about him.

Boenninghausen was a close friend of Adolph Lippe, and also of Carroll Dunham. Both of these men expressed their appreciation of the work Boenninghausen had accomplished, in Vol. 4 of the American Homoeopathic Review. Lippe mentions particularly the repertorial work of Boenninghausen and its accuracy, and one wonders if it was not this which fired his interest in repertorial work, which Lippe's son brought forth in a completed form.

Lippe gives the year of Boenninghausen's birth as 1777. It is not a matter for controversy, since Boenninghausen devoted all the time he had to the promulgation of the work which he held so dear.

Of his seven sons the two eldest chose homoeopathic medicine as their profession, which was a great joy to him. The elder of these sons practiced for a time in the neighborhood of his boyhood home, later going to Paris where he married the adopted daughter of Hahnemann's widow. He lived with Madame Hahnemann and her daughter, and had access to Hahnemann's library and manuscripts.

The Whole Health Now website also includes the full text of Boenninghausen's article, "The Characeteristic Value of Symptoms", translated in 1908 by Tafel.

Boenninghausen article

Available in our bookstore:

Pocket Manual of Homeopathic Materia Medica
Boenninghausen is often the first real materia medica to be studied; he offers a satisfying amount of information about a goodly number of remedies. A boon to inexperienced homeopaths.

Boenninghausen's Characteristics Materia Medica and Repertory
Cyrus Maxwell Boger collected and translated essentially all of Boenninghausen's work into this one book. His translation of Boenninghausen's original German rubrics into English is considered to be more accurate than that of Allen. In addition, there is an excellent and exhaustive Index enabling one to readily locate symptoms.

Lesser Writings of Boenninghausen
All the magazine articles penned by Boenninghausen, as well as a few of the smaller pamphlets. Collected by T.L. Bradford and translated into English by H. Tafel.

New Manual of Homoeopathic Materia Medica
William Boericke created this reformatted version of Boenninghausen's classic pocket manual.