This is a valuable and concise overview of the materia medica of Friedrich Hoffmann, originally a dissertation prepared under the guidance of Erika Hickel. The author bases her research largely on Hoffmann’s Medicina consultatoria of 1721–23 and directs her attention primarily to the composition and therapeutic uses of his medications, dealing succinctly with Hoffmann’s biographical data, his numerous writings and therapeutic concepts, and his innovative iatromechanical physiology and pathology. As a practicing pharmacist, Lanz was drawn by Hoffmann’s impressive knowledge of the materia medica of the period, his large practice, and his efforts to reform and confine the use of medicinal substances. In this cleansing of the pharmacopoeia, rather than in his medical philosophy, he is close to Boerhaave, Sydenham, and his Halle colleague Stahl, although none carried their reforming tendencies to the point of therapeutic abstinence.
Hoffmann’s therapeutic system is a pragmatic mixture of classical theory; of new insights gained from the work of Descartes, Boyle, and Harvey, and from advances in anatomy; and of reliance on carefully chosen, proven, and, to the extent possible, simple medications, both botanical and chemical. Born into a family of apothecaries and physicians, Hoffmann was both familiar with and highly critical of the overabundance of accumulated materia medica from the Galenic and chemiatric traditions. As the first and founding professor of medicine at a modern and famous university—the Friedrich University at Halle—he had ample opportunity to impress his theoretical approaches and his clinical [End Page 113] method on numerous students, who came to the new university medical school from the German territories, the Hungarian provinces newly liberated from Turkish control, Scandinavia, and the Baltic rim. Many of his students became famous in their own right. Hoffmann, who throughout his medical practice held onto the sale of several renowned arcana (the famous Hoffmann’s anodyne drops among them), knew how to exploit the treasures of nature. His contribution to the growing analysis and use of healing mineral waters is one example of this.
There seems to be a trend, slow but discernible on both sides of the Atlantic, for medical historians to look into matters therapeutic that eighteenth-century physicians may indeed have done right. Unlike Lester S. King 1 and Karl E. Rothschuh, 2 Lanz very definitely does not dwell on matters theoretical or philosophical. Instead, she has painstakingly reconstructed some of the concrete data needed for this type of enterprise, providing the reader with a large amount of technical and comparative (quite possibly even comparable) information. Lanz deals well and matter-of-factly with the eighteenth-century basis of Hoffmann’s therapeutic reasoning, which centered on the spiritus animales, or nerve fluid, as the indispensable physiological medium regulating all bodily functions. The core of her work, however, is a detailed exposition of the materia medica of Hoffmann’s Medicina consultatoria. Published between 1721 and 1739 in both German and Latin—in line with Halle academic practice—this multivolume work offered a large collection of case studies based on historiae morbi, with expert opinions on diagnosis and regimens provided by Hoffmann himself and by colleagues.
Lanz’s approach yields a knowledgeable, detailed, and realistic account of eighteenth-century practice: the range of strategies employed, dosage and regimen prescriptions, and similar matters. She describes the therapeutic armamentarium of an early modern clinical and academic physician, ranging from traditional home remedies like foot, sitz, and body baths, clysters, and dietary prescriptions to complex pharmaceutical preparations offered as pills and tinctures. The latter, usually a mixture of botanical and chemical ingredients, include a number of arcana produced in Hoffmann’s own laboratories, in some competition with the arcana sold by the Halle Orphanage for charitable purposes.
Among the appendices, of particular value is a detailed alphabetical list (using Latin nomenclature) of all medications and substances recommended by Hoffmann in the Medicina consultatoria; Lanz provides their...