HONIGBERGER, Johann Martin

HONIGBERGER, Johann Martin. Kronstadt (now Braşov) 10.3.1795 — Kronstadt (Braşov) 18.12.1869. Transylvanian Traveller and Self-Made Physician in India. Born in a Saxonian family in Transylvania attended the local Lyceum. Then chemist’s apprentice in Kronstadt and Bistritza and became a pharmacist. In 1815 he wandered through Bukovina, Moldova and Valachia to Varna and Constantinople (1816), where he posed himself as a physician and was employed as personal physician of the governor of Tokat. He continued his wanderings through Anatolia, Syria, Libanon and Palestine to Cairo, where he was Muhammad Ali’s pharmacist in 1820-21. Because of a plague epidemy fled to Syria, where worked six years a sphysician with succes. In Baghdad he heard that there was no European physician in Lahore and together with his Belgian friend and physician Henri de Turk (Turck, Türk) left there. Through Basra and Bushire they came to Shiraz, but the Russo-Persian war forced them back to Baghdad. Here their ways separated, Türk went to Paris, but MH succeeded in four months to reach Lahore via Basra, Masqat and Karachi.

In Lahore MH achieved Allard’s favour and was soon accepted as physician and pharmacist to Rañjit Singh. At the same time he was employed as gunpowder manufacturer, overseer of the armoury workshop and inspector of navy. After having taught his successor he started for Europe in 1833 and came through Multan and Dera-Ghazi-Khan to Kabul. As personal guest of Jalar Khan he studied the archaeology and botany of the neighbourhoods of Kabul and the Jalalabad plain. As an archaeologist he was a treasure hunter (like all in those days), who opened stupas in hope of finding treasures. His finds he sent to Allard through J. Gerard and continued himself in a caravan through Bamiyan and Balkh to Bukhara and further through Russian Turkestan to Orenburg (Tškalov). On the way he studied the ruins of Samarkand region and achieved a remarkable collection of coins. After visiting Kazan, Nižni-Novgorod, Moscow and St.Petersburg he arrived at Kronstadt at Christmas Eve 1834.

In spring 1835 MH went to Vienna, where he gave his botanical collections to Professor Jacquin, and continued to France in order to receive his other collections, sent by Allard to Bordeaux. These he presented at Société asiatique on 3.8.1835 and became friend with Mohl and Jacquet. The collection was sent to home, but was stopped by bureaucratic Austrian customs and in the end disappeared. Himself MH visited London and Germany, where he learnt homeopathy. In 1837 he again left Kronstadt for Constantinople, where he worked as homeopathic physician. Through Ventura he was called back to Lahore by Rañjit Singh and accepted. After a visit to Iaşi he went to Egypt, met Ventura there, sailed in November 1838 to Bombay and continued directly to Lahore, to paralyzed Rañjit Singh, but was no longer capable of saving him (he died on 12.6.1839). He served now at Sikh court until 1849 (when the Pañjab was already British). In 1849 he visited Kashmir, collecting plants and shawls, and sailed from Calcutta round cape to London, arriving in June 1850.

Now he published his main work in Vienna, describing i. al. his Kashmirian herbarium and his medical system combining homeopathy and allopathy. In 62 pages he gave a nine language medical glossary in Latin, German, French, English, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Pañjabi and Kashmiri. In 1851 he was back in Kronstadt. In 1852 he visited London to publish the English edition of his book and in September left again Kronstadt for the East, arriving through Constantinople, Suez and Bombay to Kashmir, where he was employed by Golab Singh. But his experiment with sugarbeet failed and he quarreled with the Raja and had to leave for Calcutta, where he found occasion to study cholera. He was able of developing a cholera vaccination, which was found effective, but was never commonly used.

In 1858 MH returned to Europe. He travelled in various parts of Europe and North Africa searching for cholera cases, but the force of disease was already slowing down. In 1860 he visited Russia and in November 1860 left from Marseille to Bombay and further to Calcutta. In 1862 the illness of his wife forced them back to Europe. In 1867 they were again in India, where his wife died in Nainital. Alone MH returned through Paris and London to Kronstadt, where he died in the middle of plans of a sixth journey to India. MH was three times married, in Kronstadt in the 1830s (one son), with an Indian in the 1840s (two daughters) and with an Englishwoman in the 1860s.

Publications: “Journal of a Route from Déra Ghazi Khan, through the Veziri Country, to Kabul”, JASB 3, 1834, 175-178, pl. xiv (map).

– “Sur la garde féminine de Ranjit Singh”, Iocana Lumii (Iasi) 1841:1, 6; letters published in Siebenbürger Wochenblatt 1839-50 and its Satellit.

Früchte aus dem Morgenland oder Reise-Erlebnisse, nebst naturhistorisch-medizinischen Erfahrungen, einigen hundert erprobten Arzneimitteln und einer neuen Heilart dem Medial-Systeme. Wien 1851, 2nd ed. 1853; English ed.: Thirty-Five Years in the East. Adventures, Discoveries, Experiments, and Historical Sketches relating to The Punjab and Cashmere: in connection with Medicine, Botany, Pharmacy, etc. together with an original Materia Medica, and a Medical Vocabulary, in four European and five Eastern Languages. 1-2. L. 1852, 2nd ed. 1905.

Cholera, its cause and infallible cure and on epidemics in general. 1-2. 1857-58; German transl.: Heilung der indischen Brechruhr durch Einimpfung des Quassins. 1859; French: Le choléra. Traitement te guérison. 1859; Third Pamphlet. 1861, German: Die Cholera, deren Ursache und unbefehlbare Heilung und die Epidemien im Allgemeinen. 1865.

founded on his material: E. Jacquet: “Notice sur les découvertes archéologiques faites par M. Honigberger dans l’Afghanistan”, JA 3:2, 1836, 234-277; 3:4, 1837, 401-440; 3:5, 1838, 163-197 & 3:7, 1839, 385-404.

founded on his material: S. L. Endlicher & Ed. Fenzl: Sertum Cabulicum. Enumeratio Plantarum quas in itinere inter Dera-Ghazee-Khan et Cabul, mensibus Majo et Junio MDCCCXXXIII, collegit Dr. Martinus Honigberger. Accedunt novarum vel minus cognitarum Stirpium Icones et Descriptiones. Fasc. 1. Vindobonae 1836 (planned fascicles 2-10 never appeared).

Sources: *G. Barbu, The activity in India of I. M. H. – a “physician” of Roumania. Bucarest 1957; Bethlenfalvy 1980, 13f.; *M. Eliade, Secretul doctorului Honigberger. Bucureşti n.d.; *F. Klima, Hippokrates 1938, 3; A. Roşu, Janus 50, 1961-63, 198-225 (abridged in I-AC 12:1, 1963, 10-20); *R. Sigalea, Johann-Martin H.: Medecin et Aventurier de l’Asie. Paris 2003; *N.B.G. 25, 1858, 76f.; *Wurzbach; *A.D.B. 13, 1881, 70f.; Ö.B.L. 1815–1950 2, 1959, 423; Wikipedia with portrait (another photo, more details and references in German version, still more in *Romanian and *Hungarian versions).


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