Hoffmann, Friedrich

Hoffmann, Friedrich

(frē`drĭkh hôf`män), 1660–1742, German physician. He taught and practiced at Halle from 1693. He studied and wrote on such varied topics as pediatrics, mineral waters, and meteorology; introduced many drugs into practice (e.g., Hoffmann's anodyne, or compound spirit of ether); and was among the first to describe several diseases, including appendicitis and German measles, and to recognize the regulatory role of the nervous system. His approach to physiology was mechanistic, viewing disease as a disruption of the body's tonus (hence the term tonic for his remedies).

Hoffmann, Friedrich


Born Feb. 19, 1660, in Halle; died there Nov. 12, 1742. German doctor of internal medicine.

Hoffmann went to school in Jena; subsequently he studied under the well-known English naturalist R. Boyle. He became professor of clinical medicine in Halle in 1694. He was under the influence of the philosophical views of G. W. von Leibniz; in his medical views he belonged to the school of the iatrophysicists. Hoffmann developed the “dynamic” theory, according to which the movement of blood and gastric juices inside the organism is the basis of health and the cessation of movement is the cause of illness.

In Hoffmann’s opinion, all the forces operating in an organism and the processes caused by them are related to matter and manifest themselves by movement, action, counteraction, contraction, and dilatation. The “movements,” or “tonus,” of an organism, according to Hoffmann, are regulated by nervous fluid (ether), which comes from the ventricles of the brain. Surplus of fluid causes contractions and spasms, and shortage of fluid causes atony. Therapeutics became reduced to either sedative and evacuant with heightened tonus and increased fluid movements and no change in systems and tissues or corroborant and irritant with reduced tonus and weakened fluid movements.

Hoffmann often prescribed a diet, bloodletting, and mineral waters. He introduced many new medicines (Hoffmann’s drops, Hoffmann’s elixir, Hoffmann’s balsam). In the 18th century Hoffmann’s system was popular among physicians in many countries.


Medicina rationalis systematica, vols. 1–9. Halle, 1718–40.


Haeser, G. Osnovy istorii meditsiny. Kazan, 1890. (Translated from German.)
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