1902 Encyclopedia > Medicine > Friedrich Hoffmann and Georg Ernst Stahl

(Part 31)

Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742) and Georg Ernst Stahl (1660-1734)

We have now to speak of two writers in whom the systematic tendency of the 18th century showed the itself most completely.

Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742), like Boerhaave, owed his influence, and perhaps partly his intellectual characteristics, to his academical position. He was in 1693 appointed the first professor of medicine in the university of Halle, then just founded by the elector Frederick III. Here he became, as did his contemporary and rival Stahl, a popular and influential teacher, though their university had not the European importance of Leyden. Hoffmann’s "system" was apparently intended to reconcile the opposing "spiritual" and "materialistic" views of nature, and is thought to have been much influenced by the philosophy of Leibnitz. His medical theories rest upon a complete theory of the universe. Life depended upon a universally diffused ether, which animals breathe in from the atmosphere, and which is contained in all parts of the body. It accumulates in the brain, and there generates the "nervous fluid" or pneuma, -- a theory closely resembling that of Mead on the "nervous liquor," unless indeed Mead borrowed it from Hoffmann. On this system are explained all the phenomena of life and disease. Health depends on the maintenance of a proper "tone" in the body, -- some diseases being produced by excess of tone, or "spasm"; others by "atony," or want of tone. But it is impossible her to follow its further developments. Independently of his system, which has long ceased to exert any influence, Hoffmann made some contributions to practical medicine; and his great knowledge of chemistry enabled him to investigate the subject of mineral waters. He was equally skilful in pharmacy, but lowered his position by the practice, which would be unpardonable in a modern physician of trafficking in secret remedies. Some of these are even to this day sold for the benefit of the orphanage at Halle.

George Ernest Stahl [Georg Ernst Stahl] (1660-1734) was for more than twenty years professor of medicine at Halle, and thus a colleague of Hoffmann, whom he resembled in constructing a complete theoretical system, though their systems had little or nothing in common. Stahl’s chief aim was to oppose materialism. For mechanical conceptions he substituted the theory of "animism," – attributing to the soul the functions of ordinary animal life in man, while the life of other creatures was left to mechanical laws. The symptoms of disease were explained as efforts of the soul to rid itself from morbid influences, the soul acting reasonably with respect to the end of self-preservation. The anima thus corresponds partly to the "nature" of Sydenham, while in other respects it resembles the archeus of Van Helmont. Animism in its completeness met with little acceptance during the lifetime of its author, but influenced some of the iatro-physical school. Stahl was the author of the theory of "phlogiston" in chemistry, which in its day had great importance.

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