Der Armen-Apotheck (Medicina pauperum or Pharmacy for the Poor) 1748 (first published in 1719)

Johann-Samuel Carl


Der Armen-Apotheck (Medicina pauperum or Pharmacy for the Poor)

Johann-Samuel Carl (1677-1757)

Johann Samuel Carl (1677-1757) was a German physician, and religious Lutheran who was well known for his strong adherence to Stahl’s medical theory. Born to the son of a pharmacist, Carl began practicing medicine at the turn of the 18th century. He attended the prestigious University of Halle under the guidance of Georg Ernst Stahl, a famous philosopher and scientist of the time whose medical theory, a revival of vitalism, influenced much of the practicing medicine in the late 17th and early 18th century. Stahl believed there to be more than just material substances to compose living beings. He believed this non-physical element was the spiritual component, or the soul, which need be considered too in healing. As a matter of fact, this prevalence of religious doctrine in medicine was not new. Since the earliest of times, a physical illness would be explained by religious means, as a manifestation of some spiritual deficiency. However, as the 18th century ushered in, so too did the medical enlightenment. This era was marked by an increased use of rational reasoning and the declined role with which religion played in influencing medicine.

Like many of his day, Carl was a religious man brought up on the teachings of Halle Pietism, a Lutheran branch of Protestantism focused on individual piety over religious formality. As one of Stahl’s ardent followers, Carl made it his mission to serve as a physician who incorporated his religious beliefs into his medical practice. In fact, after studying in Halle, Carl attended the University of Strasbourg which strengthened his Pietist beliefs. Carl and others practiced this new form of Pietist medicine in which the spiritual healing of the soul was accomplished by practicing individual piety; this in turn would heal the physical ailment. He firmly held the beliefs of his Pietist Protestant teachings and included such doctrines in his works.

In 1736 he was elevated to personal physician to the Danish King, Christian VI. Carl wrote Der Armen-Apotheck, nach allen Grund-Theilen und Sätzen der Medizin kürsslich und Einfältig Eingericht und Mitgetheilt (translated as “Pharmacy for the Poor), after all the basic parts and theories of medicine, arranged and communicated with simplicity”) in 1719, based on his Pietist based medicinal practices. His book had seen multiple editions. Our copy is from 1748. His book was in wide use by physicians of the 18th century to teach the layperson about taking care of one’s health and well-being. Written by such a God-fearing man, Carl included both the necessities of nutrition and diet in the form of learning to make medicinal herbs, as well as the notion of heading God’s Divine assistance in order to live a healthy life. During an era in which the up-and-coming medical enlightenment strayed away from notions of Divine powers of healing, there were enlightened physicians who did not consider Carl’s book a positive contribution to medicine.

As these enlightened physicians continuously placed skepticism on Stahl’s medical philosophy, Carl and other physicians became too radical of voices in the medical community. Carl was deemed a threat and was finally deported. He ultimately found work practicing as a personal physician to the nobility who were also practicing Pietists, with his most royal appointment as physician to the King of Denmark, in which he remained in service till close to his death.

Digital Version

Based on research and notes done by Malka Katz, class of 2021 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2017-2018. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.