Gottlieb Martin Wilhelm Ludwig Rau M.D. (3 October 1779 – 22 September 1841) was a German orthodox physician for 22 years before he converted to homeopathy. A Specialist in Obstetrics, who was already experimenting in natural healing before he had even heard of Samuel Hahnemann, he first began his own clinical trials of homeopathy before finally converting to it.
Gottlieb Rau was a member of the Central Association of Homeopaths in Leipsig, alongside Albrecht, Baumann, Ernst von Brunnow, Jean Barthelemy Arles Dufour, Pierre Dufresne, Anton Fischer, Carl Franz, Gaumann, Gustav Wilhelm Gross, Comte Sebastien Gaeten Salvador Maxime Des Guidi, Carl Georg Christian Hartlaub, Frantz Hartmann, Carl Haubold, Hofrath, Kretschmar, Kruger Hansen, William Leaf, Johan Joseph Wilhelm Lux, Moritz Wilhelm Mueller, Georg August Heinrich Muhlenbein, Charles Gaspard Peschier, Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, Rohl, Mathias Roth, Ernst Ferdinand Rueckert, Friedrich Jakob Rummel, John Ernst Stapf, Suffert, Timotheus Samuel Thorer, Karl Friedrich Gottfried Trinks, George Adolph Weber, Friedrich Wolf, Paul Wolf, and many others.
Dr. Rau was born on 3rd of October, 1779, at Erlangen, where his father, Dr. Johann Wilhelm Rau, was located as Professor of Theology and at the same time as ministering clergyman. He was so far educated by private instruction that in his thirteenth year he could enter the second class in the Gymnasium (High school) of his native city.
With Easter, in the year 1797, he began, in accordance with an early developed inclination, the study of medicine. Under Loschge, Hildebrandt, Wendt and Schreber, he pursued his studies with such real that he received his diploma already in the fall of 1800, after having passed through his examinations with distinguished honor, having publicly defended his inaugural address : Observationes ad pyretologiam Reichianam.
In the following years he formally entered on the office of Academic Instructor by defending a second dissertation, De acids benzoics memorabilia quaedam: but he did not actually pursue the academic vocation, as he soon afterwards followed a call to Schlitz, where the Count von Goetz appointed him as physician in ordinary as well as town physician.
The acceptance of this position, which early transferred him into practical life, decided his future career. Later on he frequently regretted leaving given up the academic career, for which he retained a preference all his lifetime. His active scientific mind was never, however, crushed by the practical work of his profession, but it received from it a definite practical direction.
With great conscientiousness Rau used the often scanty leisure allowed to him, not only for his further culture, but he, early in his life, attempted literary work, in which his peculiar clearness of perception and presentation was of great assistance to him. His former occupation with belles lettres had a very marked influence on the precision and symmetry of style perceptible in all his writings.
Besides internal medication, he cultivated in his earlier years especially obstetrics, in the practice of which he was distinguished as well by his due regard to the activity of nature as by his technical dexterity, skill, resolution and determination.
At a time when few scientifically educated physicians devoted themselves by preference to this department, it was a natural consequence that he came into an extended obstetrical practice, which extended far beyond the limits of his district.
His book on Obstetrics, which appeared in the year 1807, and was adopted as manual in the Obstetrical Institution at that place and also extensively used elsewhere, supplied what had been a longfelt want.
Of no less use in a more extensive circle was his work published in the same year, Directions for Making Suitable Sanitary Reports for the Use of Thinking Laymen; though this work, of course, in the nature of things, could not lay any claim to scientific value.
Beside these purely practical departments, he occupied himself by predilection with the sciences, the progress in which riveted his attention even to the last period of his activity.
The only work published by him is this department is the second part of Schlez’s Natures chichte, containing botany and mineralogy; this is given in popular presentation, indeed, but is interwoven with many peculiar views.
In the year 1813 he was appointed family physician of Baron v. Riedel, and at the same time head physician in Lauterbach, the province of Upper Hessia. Though his sphere of activity here remained very similar to his former one, it nevertheless became considerably more extensive, and it can only be ascribed to his very vigorous constitution that Rau endured the great hardships of an extended practice in a district which in winter is accessible in many places only at the risk of life, and this without any ill consequences.
During the war the hardships of the practice were exceedingly increased as the treatment of all the typhus patients, in a large and very populous district, fell on him as the sole physician.
At this occasion he distinguished himself, not only by his indefatigable activity, but also by his peculiar success in his practice, and numberless patients at that time owed him their life. It frequently happened at that time that he was asked by outside physicians to communicate to them his method of cure, which soon caused a great diminution in the mortality in other districts.
Convinced of the ill effects of the stimulative method, he treated the war typhus of that time antiplogistically, frequently applied cold, and found an almost specific effect from calomel. Only after the turgidity had been removed, he cautiously commenced with excitative remedies, among which Valeriana and Arnica especially proved their great virtue.
The results of these observations he preserved later on in an extended treatise on the treatment of typhus in the Clinical Annals of Heidelberg, partly also in his monograph on Nervous Fevers.
In the year 1821 he published his monograph on Piles, on which he had labored for many years with he most assiduous industry.
This treatise recommended him to the medical public, not only as a learned physician, but especially also as a good observer. As a recognition of his manifold merits, he received in the same year from his Royal Highness, the Archduke Louis I, the appointment of Aulic Counsellor, and in the fall of 1821, he was appointed as Chief Physician in Giessen.
He always looked for salvation in medicine through a discriminating, rational empiricism, and was intimately acquainted with the history of this science, the knowledge of which is largely founded on the study of the original sources; this explains his predilection for the older literature. He also diligently attended to everything new in medicine and in science in general.
Being a determined opponent of all merely theoretical swindles, he distinguished himself in practice as an eclectic in the choice of curative methods and remedies. Long before he gave in his adherence to the homeopathic curative method he had banished the motley medicinal mixtures from his practice, being convinced that a more exact knowledge of the effects of remedies, which is above all things essential, can only be obtained by simplifying the prescriptions.
Owing to his exact, practical penetration, he often succeeded in a surprising manner in overcoming diseases apparently most complicated by a most simple procedure. In his treatment he gave to the expectative method a prominent place, and with rare penetration knew how to appreciate the activities of nature, while in the proper place he would insist with resolution and penetration on incisive measures.
His principle of never proceeding without indication he carried through undeviatingly and most conscientiously, and in doubtful cases he would prefer to let nature have her way undisturbed, until after repeated observations, a definite indication manifested itself.
Starting from the fundamental position, that by far the greater part of diseases spring from a dynamic disharmony, especially of the nervous system, he made a comparatively rare use of the evacuating method, and had least use for the humoral pathology.
In Brown’s system, which he never adopted, he especially found fault with the generalization of diseases with respect to quantity with the neglect to quality.
As little was he enamored of natural philosophy, although he did full justice to many ingenious views of this school as attempts toward the explanation of causes. Generally speaking, he was in full harmony with the maxim of Kurt Spreugel, that medicine loses by any junction with scholastic philosophy and can only gain by cultivating the study d experiences.
Familiar with almost philosophic systems, he had great predilection for Immanuel Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason he studied repeatedly and even within a half year of his decease as a recreation, while he was not at all affected by Flegel, and openly confessed that he could not agree with his system.
Even many years before he became acquainted with Samuel Hahnemann‘s teachings, he said to a colleague who was a good friend of his that medicine must reach a point where it shall treat all diseases specifically:
“Till this state should be reached, however, we could chiefly in our practice expect to be benefited by a careful development of the excitative theory, though its present form did not at all satisfy him.”
This declaration of Rau we must make especially prominent in this biographic sketch, as it satisfactorily explains the later direction of the scientific development of Rau.
This also proves again, that in the progress of science, the same fundamental views may be prepared with various persons, in which case the final priority of utterance and of mating the idea frequently only depends on casual external excitations.
As Rau was thus akin in his ideas he felt himself necessarily attracted by the teachings of Samuel Hahnemann, although he had reached through a different and more scientific path a similar position to that from which Samuel Hahnemann started out empirically.
Not without a great distrust as to the diminutive doses, Rau determined after twenty two years’ practice of medicine, and being familiar with its excellences and its defects, to put Samuel Hahnemann‘s method to the test.
This he first did in ailments involving no danger afterward. Being encouraged by the successful results, he also applied it in serious maladies. How far he was, however, from blindly following Samuel Hahnemann is satisfactorily shown by his first homoeopathic work: Concerning the value of the homoeopathic curative method.
In this work he examined the leading maxims of Samuel Hahnemann‘s teachings with critical acumen and frankly exposed various imperfections and one sided developments, but defended the homeopathic law of cure against the manifold attacks made, and endeavored to show its scientific foundation.
It is indubitable that this work has much contributed to gain for Homeopathy a wider acceptance, as the attention of many was first called to that teaching by this work and in consequence many gave it a trial in their clinical work. Even the opponents had to recognize this endeavor to give to Homeopathy a scientific basis, and to acknowledge, at least, that Rau appeared as its zealous advocate from full conviction.
This conviction in him was so immovable that nothing could turn him from a path which he saw led to the goal. Seizing upon the culture of the specific healing art as his life’s task, he became not, indeed, totally estranged from the other methods of healing and even in practice applied them in many cases but theoretically he chiefly endeavored to make them tributary to Homeopathy.
In his investigations and observations, illusions may have found a place, since even the most honest investigator is never quite exempt from them; but he was at all events uniformly guided by nothing but the most sincere search for truth.
In a series of later writings he endeavored with great perseverance and consistency to reach the goal he set for himself, though he did not think his task wholly completed even by his last work: The Organon of the Specific Healing Art.
Much might yet have been expected of him if his restless activity had not reached too early a termination.
But he did much through enlarging Homeopathy as an art, as also by purifying it from many errors, as well as by serving as a mediator between extremes which threatened its disintegration. But doubtless his greatest service has been through his endeavors of bringing the new doctrine into harmony with the laws of nature and of life. Through this he assisted in securing to it a worthy position among the other curative methods, and in freeing it from the reproach of being unscientific.
Frank in his demeanor, definite and clear in his expressions, Rau, even by his external appearance, gained confidence, which became permanent through his kindliness, sympathy and indefatigable attention. Without respect of persons, he gave to each patient his full attention; he was especially a friend of the poor, who in him lose a great support.
We give the following list of his writings, excepting such as belong purely to belles lettres: Observateoires ad Pyretologian Reichianam. Erlang, 1800, 8., Concerning Reich’s Theory of Fever. Erlangen, 1801, 8., De Acido Benzoico Memorabilia Quaedam. Erlang; 1801, 8., Natural History arranged and adapted to the common understanding, by Joh. Ferd. Schlez Second part: Botany and Mineralogy, Manual for Midwives, Directions for Writing Useful Reports of Diseases, Thinking Laymen, Concerning the Diagnosis and Cure of the Entire Hemorrhoidal Disease, Concerning the Value of the Homeopathic Method, Concerning the Treatment of Typhus in the Heidelberg Klinische Annalen, 1826. Vol. 2, pp. 264-321, 371-447 497-531, Concerning the Diagnosis and Cure of Nervous Fever, History and Importance of the HomeopathicTherapy, Contributions to Therapy , also under the title Idea Toward the Scientific Demonstration of the System of Homoeopathic Therapy, The Value of the Homeopathic Practice of Medicine (1824), Circular Letter to All Adherents of the Rational Therapy, Together With Some Theses Concerning Homeopathy, The Organon of the Specific Healing Art (1847), Various Short Medical and Obstetrical Articles in Journals, Several articles in the Gemeinsame Deutsche Zeitschrift fuer Geburtekunde, Various reviews, especially in the Jenaer Literatur Zeitung, Allg. hom. Zeit
Gottlieb Rau’s Obituary is in Samuel Hahnemann by Richard Haehl, The Northwestern Journal of Homeopathy (Volume First-IV, No. 8, April 1889).
- Beiträge zur Homöopathischen Heilkunst: Ideen zur Wissenschaftlichen Begründung des Systems der Homöopathischen Heilkunst (1834)
- Über den Werth des Homöopathischen Heilverfahrens (1835 revised and enlarged edition; first published 1824)
- Organon der Specifischen Heilkunst (1838)
- Organon of the Specific Healing Art (English trans. Charles Julius Hempel, 1847)