1902 Encyclopedia > Friedrich Hoffmann

Friedrich Hoffmann
German physician
(1660-1742)




FRIEDRICH HOFFMANN, (1660-1742), the most famous physician in a family that had been connected with medicine for 200 years before him, was born at Halle, February 19, 1660. He received his school education at the gymnasium of his native town, where he acquired that taste for and skill in mathematics to which he attributed much of his after success. At the age of eighteen he went to study medicine at Jena, whence in 1680 he passed to Erfurt, in order to attend Kasper Cramer's lectures on chemistry. Next year, returning to Jena, he received his doctor's diploma, and, after publishing a thesis, was permitted to teach. Constant study then began to tell on his health, and in 1682, leaving his already numerous pupils, he pro-ceeded to Minden in Westphalia to recruit himself, at the request of a relative who held a high position in that town. After practising his profession at Minden for two years, Hoffmann made a journey to Holland and England, where he formed the acquaintance of many illustrious chemists and physicians. Towards the end of 1684 he returned to Minden, and during the next three years he received many flattering appointments. In 1688 he removed to the more promising sphere of Halberstadt, with the title of physician to the principality of Halberstadt ; and on the founding of Halle university in 1693, his reputation, which had been steadily increasing, procured for him the primarius chair of medicine, while at the same time he was charged with the responsible duty of framing the statutes for the new medical faculty. He filled also the chair of natural philo-sophy. With the exception of four years (1708-12), which he passed at Berlin in the capacity of royal physician, without however giving up his professorship, Hoffmann spent the rest of his life at Halle in instruction, practice, and study, interrupted now and again by visits to different courts of Germany, where his services procured him honours and rewards. His fame became European. He was en-rolled a member of many learned societies in different foreign countries, while in his own he became privy councillor. He died at Halle, on November 12, 1742.





Hoffmann's writings, the result both of compilation and original research, have still a considerable suggestive value. His theories, though sometimes vague and even idle, contributed in some degree to introduce a revolution in medical science ; while his doctrine of atony and spasm in the living solid as the sole cause of internal disorders turned the attention of physicians more directly to the primary moving powers of the system. He pursued with ardour the study of practical chemistry, and pharmacy owes to him several preparations which are still in general use. It was through Hoffmann also that many of the mineral springs of Germany first came into repute as health resorts.

Of his numerous writings a catalogue is to be found in Haller's Bibliotheca Medicines Practices. The chief is Medicina Rationalis Systematica, undertaken at the age of sixty, and published in 1730. It was translated into French in 1739, under the title of Médecine Raisonnée d'Hoffmann. A complete edition of Hoffmann's works, with a life of the author, was published at Geneva in 1740, to which supplements were added in 1753 and 1760. Editions appeared also at Venice in 1745, and at Naples in 1753 and 1793.







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