Hoffmann, Frederick

, the most eminent physician of his name, was born at Halle, in Saxony, Feb. 19, 1660. He received his early education in his native town, and had made great progress in philosophy and the mathematics, when, at the age of fifteen, he lost his father and mother during the prevalence of an epidemic disease. In 1679 he commenced the study of medicine at Jena, and in the following year attended the chemical lectures of Gaspar Cramer, at Erfurth; and, on his return to Jena, received the degree of M. D. in February 168!. In 1682 he published an excellent tract “De Cinnabari Antimonii,” which gained him great applause, and a crowd of pupils to the chemical lectures, which he delivered there. He was then induced to visit Minden, in Westphalia, op the invitation of a relation, and practised there for two years with considerable success. He then travelled into Holland and thence to England, where he was received with distinction by men of science, and particularly by Paul Herman, the botanist, in the former, and Robert Boyle in the latter. On his return to Minden, in 1685, he was made physician to the garrison there, and in the following year was honoured by Frederic William, elector of Brandenburg, with the appointments of physician to his own person, and to the whole principality of Minden. Yet he quitted that city in 1688, in consequence of an invitation to settle at Halberstadt, in Lower Saxony, as public physician. Here he published a treatise “De uisufficientia acidi ct viscidi,” by which he overthrew the system of Cornelius Bontekce. In 1689 he married the only daughter of Andrew Herstel, an eminent apothecary, with whom he had lived forty-eight years in perfect iniion, when she died. About this time, Frederic III., afterwards first king of Prussia, founded the university of Halle; and in | Hoffmann was appointed primary professor of medicine, composed the statutes of that institution, and extended its fame and elevated its character, while his own reputation procured him admission into the scientific societies at Berlin, Petershurgh, and London, as well as the honour of being consulted by persons of the highest rank. He was called upon to visit many of the German courts in his capacity of physician, and received honours from several princes; from whom some say that he received ample remuneration in proportion to the rank of his patients; while others have asserted that he took no fees, but contented himself with his stipends. Haller asserts that he acquired great wealth by various chemical nostrums which he vended. In 1704 he accompanied some of the Prussian ministers to the Caroline warm baths in Bohemia, on which occasion he examined their nature, and published a dissertation concerning them. On subsequent visits, he became acquainted with the Sedlitz purging waters, which he first introduced to public notice, having published a treatise on them in 1717: and he afterwards extended his inquiries to the other mineral waters of Germany. In 1 708 he was called to Berlin to take care of the declining health of Frederic, and was honoured with the titles of archiater and aulic counsellor, together with a liberal salary. After three years residence at this court he returned to Halle, and gladly resumed his academical functions. He continued also to labour in the composition of his writings; and in 1718, at the age of 60, he began the publication of his “Medicina Rationalis Systematica,” which was reoeived with great applause by the faculty in various parts of Europe, and the completion of which occupied him nearly twenty years. He likewise published two volumes of “Consultations,” in which he distributed into three “centuries,” the most remarkable cases which had occurred to him; and also “Observationum Physico-Chemicarum Libri tres,1722. In 1727 he attended the prince of Schwartzemburg through a dangerous disease; in recompence for which his noble patient created him count palatine. He quitted Halle in 1734, in order to pay a short visit to his daughter and son-in-law at BerJin, and was detained five months by the king of Prussia, Frederic William, in order to attend him during a dangerous illness, by whom he was treated with great honour, elevated to the rank of privy counsellor, and | presented with a portrait of the king, set in diamonds. Hoffmann declined a pressing invitation to settle at Berlin, on account of his advanced age, and returned to Halle in April 1735. The illness and death of his heloved wife, in 1737, turned his thoughts to the consolations of religion, and he drew up in Latin a summary of Christian doctrine, which, at the king’s desire, was translated into German. He continued to perform his academical duties until 174!?, when he died in the month of November, aged eighty-two. Frederick Hoffmann was an industrious and copious writer. Haller has occupied thirty-eight quarto pages in the enumeration of his works in detail. The principal of these were collected, during the life of the author, by two Genevese booksellers, and published with his approbation, and with a preface from his pen, in 1740, in six vols. folio. It was reprinted by the same booksellers, the freres de Tournes, in 1748; and in the following year, having raked together every thing which his pen had touched, they published a supplement in three additional volumes folio, which was also reprinted in 1753-4. The writings of Hoffmann contain a great mass of practical matter of considerable value, partly compiled from preceding writers, and partly the result of his own observation; but they contain also many trifling remarks, and not a little hypothetical conjecture, which was indeed a common fault of the times; and in the detail there is considerable prolixity and repetition. Asa theorist his suggestions were of great value, ad contributed to introduce that revolution in the science of pathology, which subsequent observation has extended and confirmed. His doctrine of atony and spasm in the living solid, by which he referred all internal disorders to some “preternatural affection of the nervous system,” rather than to the morbid derangements and qualities of the fluids, first turned the attention of physicians from the mere mechanical and chemical operations of the animal body to those of the primary moving powers of the living system. To Hoffmann Dr. Cullen acknowledges the obligations we are under for having first put us into the proper train of investigation; although he himself did not apply his fundamental doctrine so extensively as he might have done, and every where mixed with it a humoral pathology as incorrect and hypothetical as any other. Hoffmann pursued the study of practical chemistry with considerable ardour, and improved the department of pharmacy by the | addition of some mineral preparations; but on the whole, and especially in his latter years, his practice was cautious, and even inert, and he trusted much to vegetable simples. 1


Rees’s Cyclopædia.—Life of Hoffmann, by Schulze, &c.