Johanne Christophor Homann and his Medicinae Cum Geosophia Nexu — the Medical-Geography Connection
Such, then, it should be a brief embrace to say that Geosophia is nothing else than the knowledge of the qualities of the earth, and man’s knowledge of how to live with and make use of them.
Johann Christopher Homann, whose accomplishment is the focus of this page, is the second child of Johann Baptiste Homann, one of the most famous cartographers of the early 18th century. The Homann family formed one of the first map publishing companies from the German portion of Europe. Their maps quickly matched the popularity and artistry of the most famous maps produced by Dutch mapmakers a century before. From 1702 to 1730, the Homanns produced and published several atlases, hundreds of maps of countries around the world, and a number of topical maps. Many of these maps were the first of their kind. Not only did subject matter and content make them different, but also the manner and preciseness of their presentation of each place due mostly to the newly evolved mathematics developed for cartographers.
Unlike the 1600s, the art of mapmaking in 1700 required that cartographers provide important details as a part of their graphical illustrations. This information had to be useful for both politics and learning purposes. The truth in mapmaking was now very important, and a map with a serious error or a deliberately crafted set of misleading mistakes could be very detrimental to a country much less the reputation of cartographers and the industry as a whole. Whereas a century before, maps served to generalize, promote, exagerate, brag about, politicize, and even produce better impressions about the places and topics on the map, during the 18th century some of these reasons for mapping were discarded and replaced by a map used to define political and economic value and ownership. These new fortunes were being found abroad.
The earth as it was projected by the 18th century map consisted of mostly two kinds of regions–the highly populated parts of the world and its wilderness settings occupied by indigenous cultures. Homann’s maps served to provide more details about unsettled lands, new places for people to migrate to. There was little text accompanying these maps of the New World, but the future of these places and special knowledge about the given culture and people attached to each place was important to politicians, investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs alike. Aside from the income that could be generated from these places there was their healthiness as future places to settle. The Homanns provided royalty and the nations this information, for which reason their patron Johanns Baptiste received the financial and diplomatic support of the Royal family. The first maps of the world made by the Homann’s provided Royal members with highly detailed renderings of the earth’s oceans, continents, nations, countrysides, and unclaimed wildernesses.
In 1702, J.B. Homann created the family’s cartography business. One year later it was taken over by his son Johann Christopher.
The following is a brief review of important events in J.B. and J.C. Homann’s life histories:
1702 – Johann Baptiste [J. B.] Homann map publishing company formed in Nuremburg.
1703 – Johannes Christophorus [J.C.] Homann succeeds his father’s position, and continues to hold it until about 1730.
1705 – The first Homann atlas is published
1707 – J. B. Homann becomes a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences
1715 – J. B. Homann is appointed as Geographer to the Emperor
1725 – J.C. Homann completes his Medicine and Geosophy Dissertation and presents it
1729 – J.C. Homann’s Dissertation is published; he starts the school of Natural Philosophy in Nuremburg.
1730 – J.C. Homann takes a professorship position at Göttingen.
1730 – Homann’s map company is bequeathed to its heirs.
“Regni Mexicani seu Novae Hispaniae, Ludovicianae, N. Angliae, Carolinae, Virginiae, et Pensylvaniae.” Nuremberg: J.B. Homann, [ca. 1725]. ‘Mexico in New Spain, Louisiana, New England, Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania’ map by Johann Baptist Homann, after a similar rendering by Guillaume Delisle. Notice how Canada-Nova Francia (Canada-New France) is separated from Ludoviciana (Louisiana Territory); this is based on the travels of Jesuit Father Louis Hennepin, who made his way along the Mississippi River and through the Great Lakes region around 1700. (Hennepin’s recount of at least one of these journeys is considered to be false and plagiarized.) Parts of New France also included the normally Spanish-controlled region in and around what is now the current State of Florida westward to Mexico. Also changed are the areas of Dutch control and former political dominance, once present along Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and Hudson River; these are not represented by Homann’s unique regional color pattern.
Johann Baptiste Homann
When the colonies began to be settled by common citizens rather than unique religious groups, the properties most disputed were those claimed by New France, New England and New Spain in what is now the western half of New York. Western New York would not be claimed by New York government until it became effectively occupied until 1778, due to the ongoing Revolutionary War and disputes with Iroquois and Huron nations residing in the Finger Lakes region.
In the 1720s map, we find that not even the Finger Lakes are included as a part of Great Britain’s land claims, and in an “updated” version of this map (posted below, ca. 1757), we find even less of western New York considered to a part of the British domain (green). Most of the midwestern territory of this continent was considered part of La Louisiane and under the control of the French (yellow). What remained of New Spain is displayed as the red area around Florida and the reddish parts of Mexico that are displayed.
In the above “updated” edition of one of Homann’s maps of North America, New France is now extended into the Far midwest, with New Spain still holding the Florida region and New England established along the remaining Atlantic coastline. Also notice how the English-ruled Canadian part to the north is separated from the English-ruled New England-Carolina-Virginia portions.
The above maps also demonstrate how territories and nationalism came to be during the colonial period, and help us to understand how these maps played a heavy role in how some people interpreted the healthiness and diseases of a given region. It is no coincidence that Great Britain had control of much of the east coast, with claims located along the mid-latitude warm temperate region of the coast northward into upper latitude cold temperate region comprising New England and Canades or Canada.
The French however were not so limited in the climates of their land claims in North America. They had control of cold latitude on down to the first tropical parts of the North American continent at the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the predominantly coastal make up of the British claims, the French claims spread across the interior of the continent, passing through thousands of miles of non-maritime settings along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. The warmer parts of this region were mostly warm temperate, with the exception of the a narrow band of the tropical portion of Louisiana adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico and some of the isolated island communities throughout the Carribean.
With the passage of time this geography would give them a different set of physiographic features for use in reviewing the behavior of disease relative to climate, air flow patterns, seasons, and topography. Both the New British and New France parts of North America were very different from those parts considered to be a part of New Spain. On the Homann map, New Spain is indicated as the red section around Florida, as well as much of Mexico and Central America south of La Louisiane also displayed on this map. These land claims were also of regions that were very much like the lands and climate of the mother country Spain. Of course, there were a number of small communes all throughout Central and South America that were of non-Spanish rule, like the Dutch-claimed parts of Costa Rica, but no major land claim areas, but in terms of large area claims, the climate of the mother country and the basic teachings of Riverius on back to the early Greek writers is what determined how European countries wished to stake their claims to the New World.
Homanns’ work helped scholars and physicians begin to understand disease and place relationships, and it was no surprise therefore to find that during this time, as the fever came to be better understood and broken down into different types by medical nosologists, that some very geographically distinct and often isolated, endemic forms of the fever would emerge, only to later be spread and therefore classified as epidemic diseases once they reached new parts of the world at large. The Homann’s work was performed in the decades prior to the ability of physicians to differentiate yellow fever, from typhoid, and from the various other forms lacking the ague component of their symptomatology. Later cartographers and medical geographers better understand the placement and behaviors of these diseases, and of the various cultural settings and related endemic and epidemic disease regions that certain types of diseases could be related to. All of this discovery came about due to the focus of the work on this topic by the medical philosopher of the family, Johannes Christopher. J.C. Homann’s dissertation Medicinae Cum Geosophia Nexu is his outcome of this unique opportunity his family’s fame and profession provided him with.
Johannes Christophorus Homann
Biography source: Von Christian Sandler. John Baptist Homann. Ein Beitrage zur Geschiste der Kartographie. Pages 328-384. In Zeitschrift der gessellschaft fur Erdkund su Berlin . . . 1886. See Biography section on p. 382.
Johann Baptist’s [J.B.] second son Johann Christopher [J.C.] gave the family additional fame when Johann Christopher wrote his Dissertation, some time between 1720 and 1725. The full title of this dissertation was Medicinae Cum Geosophia Nexu, quam auspice deo propotio, which translates to “The medical-geosophia connection, as proposed under the auspices of God”.
In his dissertation, J. C. Homann produces a brief summary about the world, taking advantage of the many insights his mapping experience provided him with regarding the relationship between mankind, the world, its natural resources, and God. This led him to produce some very unique personal queries into these topics, making J.C. Homann one of the first cartographers to detail the geography of what we today consider to be the relationships that exist between place and regional ethnology and anthropology. The potential applications for this work were numerous, including synopses on the geography of human philosophy and religion, reviews of people and their living behaviors, and some of the first most important geographic reviews of the plant kingdom and how this related to plant medicines.
As part of this latter topic of interest–disease, cures and place–Homann pulled together some of the first information about the knowledge this subject of disease and place. He completed his personal query into medicine and geography in 1725; it was published in 1729.
With his work he defined the relationship between these two fields of study, and was awarded a medical degree by the University at Halle as a result of his Dissertation. Evidence for any training in medicine that he actually received however remains unfounded.
The Royal medical society just realized that Homann pulled together some of the most relavent topics in world history and medicine into a single document, thereby setting the stage for the future development of an interest in mapping people, populations, cultural life patterns, health and disease by future cartographers. Hommen’s publication therefore set the rules for interpreting and mapping disease in relation to human activities and behaviors and the surrounding environment. Another seventy-five years would pass before this work received enough support and respect to make geosophy an important part of the cartography world, not just a philosophy embraced mostly by the theological world. By the end of the eighteenth century, with the formation of the United States, there was a slow introduction of disease mapping as the the actual study and naming of the field “medical geography” came to be. This began just a few years after the first disease map was produced by a French author in 1792, detailing disease patterns around the world, approximately seventy years after Johanne Christopher Homann’s Dissertation was published.
Disease and Place as it appears in Hippocrates’ Aphorisms, this review and commentary of which was published in 1542, and this copy subsequently purchased by a monk
J. C. Homann’s Reading, Mentors and Influences
At the beginning of his Dissertation, Homann cites a variety of influential friends, writers and medical professionals. The following is a list of individuals cited in his 47 page writing.
- Hippocrates’ Aeris, aqua, locis [Of Air, Waters, and Places]
- Rivinus’ Dissertatione de Morbis endemiis [Dissertation on morbid endemic diseases]
- Friedrich Hoffman’s work
- Ambrosius Rhodius’ Medicinae Philosophicum [Medical Philosophy]
- Zaluzanius and Scribonius’ Medicina Logicum [Logical Medicine]
- Crausius Mathesin medico necessarium [The necessity of a mathematical physician]
- Pitkarnio Medicarium medicina physico-mathematica [The Physical-Mathematical Medicine of Patients]
- Joh. Hassfurth, Virdungensis astronomer
- Jacobus Schall, Argentinensis astronomer
- Cornelius Plejurus, astronomer
- Violarius’ Oration quadum inaugurali, De multiplici Geographia usu ac prestantia [Violarius’ inaugural speech, Of the multiple use[s] of geography, with excellence].
The most important influences upon J.C. Homann’s work were the writings of Hippocrates, Augustus Rivinus and Friedrich Hoffman, each of whom provided the background philosophy and information one needed as a physician to better understand the role of nature and natural events in defining a person’s salutitude, or health and disease state.
Hippocrates’ classic writing Airs, Waters and Places, is perhaps one the earliest lengthy essays on the geography of health and disease. This work would remain the defining essay on health and geography for centuries to come. The break from purely Hippocratic and Galenic tradition in all of medicine began very slowly in the 17th century as scientists became more detailed in their methods of studying medicine, the body and the various sciences developed through this research. By the end of the 17th century, with cadaver-based development of anatomical knowledge now a standard, it was time for science to makes its way into the precursors to today’s natural sciences. Hippocrates’ work was still taught as a standard, but several new authors were popular as well, like Sydenham, the Hippocrates of the latter half of the 17th Century, Augustus Rivinus, and Friedrich Hoffman.
Rivinus’s work cited by Homann focuses on endemic and epidemic diseases, both well defined geographic features of diseases. This work was meant to define the role of the household and living environment on health and disease, but had its applications to disease as a whole, in the local environment and workplace as well as in the humble abode. Supplementing these were Riverius’s writings about diseases that are very much related to a particular place and set of conditions. In this essay, features such as time of the year, seasonal airflow patterns, proximity to major landforms, density of local populations all become important definers for endemic disease behavior conditions.
Homann also cites Friedrich Hoffman in his Dissertation. Hoffman is perhaps one of the most important combined religious writers, natural philosophers and physicians for this time.
Pitkairn’s work Elementa Medicina (Elements of Medicine) is a classic medical text.
Crasius’s work may be that of Dissertations under R. G. Crausius, dean of the medical faculty at Jena. In 1690 documents, this work included essays on alchemical subjects, with alchemy still considered by some to be a source for the universal medicine in 1679. His work also included a study of the principles and transmutation of metals in 1686 and an essay on the denial of fermentation in the blood, then considered to be a possible cause for disease.
In the 1696 documents (also noted in Google), Universalis morbi is discussed–the universal disease or universal cause for disease–fever. However, Crausius’s doctrines as detailed by Homann are related to mathematics and medicine, with math considered a valuable tool in understanding the mechanics of the universe (a Newtonian concept), and the way to better understand the events of nature. To some later scholars, these are perhaps considered more the results of the new and “modern” science upon the older classical, “ancient” science practiced by Diviners. The lectures or orations Crausius produced pertaining to astrological calculations, have yet to be found in this exploration of medical geography traditions.
The following is a translation of a part of the beginning section in in the 1690 document in which Crausius assigns meaning to the work of Hippocrates, as it relates to place and health or disease.
Hippocrates Medicinae parens optimus in eo, qui fe Aesculapii саstris devovit, requirit naturam, locum studis aptum, industriam, tempus, doctrinam, institutionem a puero.
Physician Hippocrates, the father of the best [physicians], who devoted himself to the camp of Aesculapius, requires that nature be a place of study, industry, time, doctrine, and manner of life for the new or the young.
Note, the one ongoing riddle: was ‘a puero’ [reference to ‘child’] made in reference to those learning to be doctors? with industry ~ work, doctrine ~ facts or laws?
Homann then continues with citations of medical philosopher Ambrosius Rhodius (not the more famous argonaut Apollonius Rhodius). This physician defined a form of medicine philosophy and practice mimicking Severinus’s practice of Idea medicine around 1650. Severinus’s philosophy brings to mind the concept of the philosopher’s stone or the cure-all for all diseases and the source for eternal knowledge, wisdom and life. The ability to learn such a secret related to creation and the Creator was heavy on the minds of many scholars, as science changed from its Renaissance Era interpretations consisting mostly of empiricism and romantic, artistic ideologies of the body, mind and soul, and turned to the more “iatromechanical” way of interpreting the body and its “gift” of life as a more physical concept into which some sort of elan vital or magical force was injected thereby forming the soul.
As an aside– this belief in Idea Medicine was very much a philosophical concept of the New York lower- New England area around 1650 to 1700. English philosopher and practitioner of the occult, John Dee, introduced it to John Winthrop, Jr. of Connecticut. From here it was spread, mostly orally perhaps, making its was across what is now the Connecticut-New York border and finally into the Hudson Valley. An important part of this philosophy was the ens or entia concept preached by Paracelsus and in works of chemsitry and alchemy by Severinus about this same time as Dee’s influences (see “A Mappe of Medicyne”, p. 35 for more). Within this work, the philosophy of life, the ens and entia, the “Light of Nature” [also a very Quaker definition of God as a Universal Energy] are all concepts that are pulled together by these writings. To the old Dutch families of New York, this became a very important philosophical belief that we see being adhere to, again in reference to the earlier physician’s book and practice on the same–Dr. Cornelius Osborn.
The magic of knowing how the body was made and constructed, and how it was linked to the Heavens and the Stars above by Astronomers (not “Astrologers”, although they were still referred to as such), and therefore God as well, is what inspired Rhodius to initiate his monologue with readers about the natural history of medicine and the related natural philosophical, natural theological notions of health and disease. “The Mappe of Medicyne” so defined with this philosophical principal is symbolic, and is not a map of the earth and its places, but rather a map of the mind and soul in relation to life in the physical world. This drawing of parallels in terms of words, not actual physical links, was commonplace to the philosophers mind at this time, and is how Cicero’s concept of contagio (reviewed a little later on this page), in reference to metaphysical relationships and the notion of balance, was converted into the contagion that we know of today–a physical substance and iatromechanical, iatrophysical relationship responsible for good and bad health. These concepts were used to their fullest extent by Homann’s redefinition of the values expressed in his Dissertation. In some parts of this discussion, the notions of epidemics and endemics are related to the ens or entia of nature (ibid, page 375 ).
It is in chapter 12 that this place-defining meaning for “The Mappe of Medicyne” comes to light. “A Mappe of Medicyne or Philosophicall Path” is the full title of this part of the book (ibid, p. 376). According to the author of the book reviewed for this part of the medical cartography history, the following text appears in this section:
“We doe not here promise an absolute & perfect description of Diseases, but a patterne, or path which in some measure disposeth the Philosophicall truth.”
Nature is made a part of medicine, health and disease with Rhodius’s work, a product of the Idaem Medicina Philosophicae defined by Severini. This makes Homann’s interpretation of natural theology or natural philosophy a natural sequiter to his studies of the geography of health and disease.
Scribonius’s Compositiones Medicatorum, a much later 18th C reprint
In contrast with Homann’s natural science links to his Dissertation, several philosophical references he makes note of are less easy to follow. Some pertain to his medical botany portions of his philosophy, others to unknown arguments produced for his philosophy.
His reference to the Medicina Logicum for example is a little hard to decipher. These two authors –Zaluzanius and Scribonius– are from very different time periods, but perhaps both produced a writing either with the same title or a title inferring this form of discussion. Adding to this uncertainty is the fact that we can find mention of a Medicina Logicum in a classic 17th century book by Caspari Hoffmani entitled De Medicamentus officinalibus. . . This time the Medicina Logicum is by Galen.
Homann’s focus on Zaluzanius is most important to note due to his role locally as a botanist, noted in association with a monastic herbarium in Bohemia in Sprengel’s History of Herbaria.
Homann also mentions two astronomers with a very interesting history. These two are listed as Jos. Hassfurth, Virdungensis astronomer and Jacobus Schall, Argentinensis astronomer. The Encyclopedia of Religion (2005) volume 1, states ” … astrology can also be found in the writings of little-known astrologers such as Richard Argentine, Lucio Bellanti, Petrus Buccius, Joachim Camerarius. Johann … Taisnier, Georg Taunstetter- Collimitus, Johannes Virdung of Hasfurt, et al.”. The time period for another Johannes Virdung’s influences as a “mathematician” are ca. 1490/1500-1520 (link).
Joh. Hassfurth, Virdungensis is found in association with the third astronomer Homann mentioned, Cornelius Plejurus, in Johannes Antonides Vander Linden’s De Scriptis Medicis (Writings by Doctors), as follows
A “Jacob Schall”, possibly Homann’s “Astrologer” Jacob Schall, is also noted in the periodical Wunderfackel . . .
The field of geography and the skills of mapping are focused on two related studies — mathematics and astronomy. Each of these assists in differentiating Homann’s writings and philosophy from similarly appearing practices at time performed by the early numerologists, geomancers and astrologists, each a profession of what was then perceived to be personally possessed or divine powers called up by specific activities. The geomancer around this particular period in medical history was best known for his/her interpretation of an area based on seemingly random points generated by hand on paper and then treated as a map, on which lines and circles are added. Geographers who produced maps bore only a slight resemblance to these skills, and their points and shapes formed on paper much more meaningful, requiring a great deal less imagination and guesswork.
These opposing differences seem at times to be a moot point, were it not for the popularity of geomancers and other “gifted divines” in many regards relative to the less known, less utilized, and more costly cartographer.
As a cartographer, with a respect for religion and natural philosophy, Homann included his understanding of the planets, stars and moon in relation to earth. Unlike astrologers, who like geomancers paid close attention to the relationships between points, astronomers paid heed to the classical scientific teachings of the great scholars, such as Copernicus, Galileo and by then the very popular Isaac Newton. Astronomers were developing theories, beliefs and claims that were much more modern than the claims made by astrologers and the like. During this period, there were many believers in the mechanical theories of natural events, like the recurring mechanical and mathematically predictable behaviors of stars, comets, meteors, solar, lunar and planetary activities. Homann added his own understanding of math to this philosophy and related cartographic skills, improving upon whatever products came to be from this work. It is for this reason that he cited three astronomers and eludes to the involvement of more in his life of mapping the philosophy of health and the grand contagio form of being noted in a fragment of one of Cicero’s remaining incomplete works.
The forward part of this discussion by Homann ends with mention of the locally famous orationist and his speech on geography–Violarius. In a review of the ancient Roman documents linked to the Heirs of Aldus the Elder, there is mention of “Provenance: ‘Ascanius (or D. Joannas) Violarius (or Victorius) | Rector[. . . ]iani'”, suggesting possible ownership of this work by an individual named Violarius. This item has on one of its boards the following: ‘TITI LIVII | DECADUS | TERTIAE’ along with ‘VENETIIS ALDUS|1519’ (for more details see).
The translation of the work by Violarius tells us it is about promoting the field of geography. Its writer may be a contemporary orator in Homann’s days or once again a famous Roman writer whose work he had to read as a student. Either way, we know from the title of the Oration that Violarius’s speech gave Homann the words needed to support his attempts to related regional medical conditions and endemic and epidemic diseases to his family’s profession–cartography. His writings tell us that he effectively was able to relate the observations for what are now the studies of geography, topography, climate, weather, hydrology, anthropology, astronomy, cosmology, religious natural philosophy or natural theology, into a single field–Medicina-Geographica.
The purpose and meaning of Homann’s work is several fold, but principally related to the second half of the title he gave to this work–Medicinae Cum Geosophia Nexu, quam auspice deo propotio–which translates to “The medical-geosophia connection, as proposed under the auspices of God”.
Homann was philosophically and conscientiously linked to the existence and role of God. His message was quite simple–by believing in this philosophy, we acknowledge the possibility that the Creator has provided us with everything needed to survive, as well as everything needed to become ill and perhaps even die.
Homann’s mentor and superior, who overlooked his work on his dissertation and in the end had to decide to either refuse it or acccept it, was one of those scholars in theology with strong attractions to the newly evolving sciences. We find evidenec for this is a book he wrote published in the years during and just prior to the time when Homann wrote his dissertation. In the Preface to his book, Introductio to Medicinam Practicum . . . (1721), Michaelis Alberti writes [note, this is translated, but moderately rephrased and reworded to improve clarity]:
[I]n 1705, taking place as part of the private study to teach physics . . . I decided to share my thoughts to those about those theses, which are of the medical and chemical theory. I know your job will be in the study, demonstration & approval with solid notice made about the investigation of what were once considered ‘useless novelties exercised towards curious ears’ . . . you ought to study more accurately the nature of the Creator and learn to recognize and give reverence to its illustrations, with no means of wanton or violent beliefs and conscience, or the portrayal of turbulent, dishonest knowledge of the Creator.
Learning the fundamental philosophy of nature is proposed, but not fully detailed here, learned as it is found in the treatises that commonly occur in the physical systems. These have been dropped from consideration for the explanation of medical science and such and I propose that they are indeed needed for the most part. I found that many failures in this knowledge about physical nature occur, and subsequently the treatment and knowledge of the nature and movement fail as well. I am determined to navigate out of on this practice by the strengths I propose in making such changes to the prior reductions made into the economy; these changes are demonstrated as the results of the rich labors of observations and work that are made consistently on the Macrocosmi and the Microcosmus as it relates to the Macrocosmus.
I have not concealed the common physical curiosity, but instead looked at the time when everything ad nauseum with B Sturm and my cousin B Weigelium Schunc, from the theoretical to the practical, such as instructions in arithmetic and mechanical applications, by means of sufficient importance and formerly dropped as curiosities, are now completely immersed in as part of the true theory of drugs, and so be it now taught and learned so easily . . .
The ending of the second paragraph, with reference to the interplay of the microcosmos and the macrocosmos, is a common theme to the 17th century. Jakob Boehme, who was most influential upon the Dutch and had at least two periods of high popularity, wrote about this philosophy concept, the notion of ‘us’ versus ‘the universe at large’ and God. Alberti’s comments on this association are also found very early on in Homann’s dissertation–the quote in the very second part or section enumerated in his writings in fact. Not only was Alberti the primary source for some of Homann’s inspiration, he was the conciliar in charge of the the church’s beliefs. This provides direct evidence for the nature of Homann’s philosophy, directing us away from considering any whimsical, unaccepted beliefs then being practiced by the numerous types of metaphysicians, including chiromancers, hepatomancers, pyromancers, and geomancers (see more on ~ mancers at Skeptic’s Dictionary).
In addition to Alberti as his mentor and primary reviewer for his Dissertation, Homann received further encouragement from one of his most important mentors, whom he kindly recognizes as “Senior Alma Norica” (probably Senior of Old Alma House in Norica). His identity uncertain, this religious leader played a major role in Homann’s work. One of the most important roles he had was to provide the initial spark needed by Homann to begin this journey of his, and later assure that Homann adhered to traditional theological theory and philosophy, thereby preventing him from accidentally veering towards less supported practices in the metaphysical fields of study. This senior led Homann along a path as a member of the church and its religious school and as a member of the most important family of cartographers locally. So, when we review and interpret J.C. Homann’s writings in general, his interests in the cosmos and terrae, we need to keep this in mind. As inferred by Rhodius, three is a balance as well between the physical world and the metaphysical world that can be mapped. Homann’s goal was to meld his cartographic world with a philosophical “mappe” of the world.
Several sections of Homann’s work, translated for this section of blog, reveal much about the above statements about Homann’s philosophy and the underlying purpose for his work on Medicinae Cum Geosophia. For an initial review of his book, some sections were pulled from the Latin and translated for several basic concepts, after which only the translations are provided for the subsequent lengthier review of the work. [Due to its importance, the entire work will be subsequently translated and posted on another page at some point). Those sections in Latin pulled from Homann’s work are translated as accurately as possible (some legibility/readability problems), but some rewording is needed to clarify [those purists out there can simply access this book at its link for further clarification].
Excerpts from Homann’s Introduction
Dum itaque nulla adhuc hujus observationis meditatio ex institutio lucem adspexit, (quantum mihi innotuit), in qua propio & peculiari videlicet studio agitur, qua ratione scientis terrarum earun dem que incolarum diversa pro diversitate regionum constitutio in usus medicos reuocari debeat; Celeb. Medici ordinus in Alma Norica Senior, mihique maxime suspiciendus Fautor hujus selecti Thematis monitor suit perquam benevolus, cujus propositi nervum & dignitatem D. D. Praeses suo probavit calculo, quod quo magis illico mihi probabatur, eo magis operam nervosque intendere debui, ut nexum Medicinae Geosophia pro meis qualibus cunque ingemi viribus demonstratum dem, sic quidem, ut praecipuas certarum terrarum qualitates, quae in Climatibus, aere, fructibus, potibus, & vivendi genere, consuetudinibus & moribus incolarum passim ex ferunt, observationum loco quadantenus referam, ex iisdemque deducam, quomod eam Medicus ad suos usus applicare debeat.
Therefore, while no further observation of this study sees the light of the institution, (as far as I know), in which the self and one’s special interest is the manner in which the world knows pertaining to the inhabitants of different regions, depending on the use of this to the medical establishment, it ought to be called back or reviewed; The Celebrated Medici Alma Noricum Senior is my greatest Supporter of this theme that I selected for my Dissertation, and is monitored by him with his support, its purpose and its value noted, D. D. [academic title/degree granted]. The presiding has shown in this calculation, in a way that is more immediately acceptable to me, that the more I listen to the strings (messages of nature/special messages), the more the strength of my connection of Medicine Geosophia is proven as I have shown, that is to say the most important qualities of certain lands, in which the climate, air, fruit, drinks, and a way of life, customs and manners of the inhabitants as reported be included, as they are to observed and recounted to some extent for a particular place, that this same method should be used in order tell the doctor how to apply this knowledge to their use.
This philosophy and focus for his work differed greatly from the other “World spirit” movements underway, offshoots like astrology and geomancy.
Homann’s geographically based summary of this theme is mentioned in the following section of his dissertation. It distinguishes this work from any possible connection it might have been given to those practices less respected by the more traditional religious teachers and professors–the practices of astromancy and geomancy.
It scopum hujus thematis brevibus illustriorem reddam, necesse est, ut definitionem ejus, quod hic pertractandum mihi proposui, constituam. Sed antequam a me hoc siet, praemittendum erit, Geographiam generaliter plerumque dividi solere in Mathematicam, Physicam, & Historicam, cujus inprimis Physica & Historica pars qualitatem ipsius Terrae in se, & in quot regions & provincias ipsa distribuatur considerat, earundemque Aerem, Terrae fertilitatem, Fructus, plantas, & Incolarum denique mores & Vivendi genus describit; inde liquer, has inter globi terrestris descriptiones multa occurrere, quae causae ad invehendos morbos sunt, fierique possunt; ut inde necessario sequator, in applicatione & praxi Medico perquam utile esse, si cognitione talium rerum geographico-Medicarum praeditus est. Quan scientiam uno verbo inposterum semper Geosophian appellare placet.
The scope of the theme, which I will state briefly here is as follows. First I will state that Geography is usually divided generally into the studies of mathematics, physics, history, and natural history (history of science), and in particular the quality of the Earth itself and the many provinces of the country, and of the distribution and behavior of its air, land, fertility, fruit, plants, natives and their manners, and finally, the many forms of life and water on earth and the many causes of disease. It therefore follows that my work will be very useful to the physician for application and practice. Once he is endowed with this knowledge of Geographical Medicine, we call him a Geosophian.
A little bit of tradition lingers on in Homann’s writings and work on geosophy. The study of this philosophy has as its roots the important writings of Cicero, who wrote in an isolated, unconnected piece of incunabula (De fato . . . ) the following:
Cicero – De fato, 1-10 … ut in reliquis eius modi, naturae contagio valet, quam ego non tollo–vis est nulla fatalis; in aliis autem fortuita quaedam esse possunt,
. . . of such a nature as in the rest of nature, with the contagion of it is valid, which I do not take away – the force is not fatal, but also an operation of Fortune to others, there can be some . . . [source]
. . . which stated more briefly is
naturae contagio, ipsa rerum contagio
From natural infection (or contagion), comes natural infection (or contagion) [However, this ‘contagio’, the original, is generally considered to be more hypothetical and metaphorical in nature]
The balance of nature is implied, for each force considered to be a sympathy there is an antipathy. Such a consideration was also considered to exist for disease in the natural world. Modern renderings of this philosophy state or argue that the cure exists near the disease due to the likelihood for its persistence through natural selection processes. But the antipathy also exists, such as the development of a cure for cancer in a part of the world totally opposite of places where the cancer normally forms–the notion that because the cure was not present when the cancer (bug, virus or disease) evolved, it is not prepared for the stresses against its survival it will experience once it makes contact with that substance for the first time–each theory perhaps bringing to mind an examples of phenomenology at their best (link to my page on this).
Extremely clear evidence for each of these philosophical concepts involving New World travels appear in the writings of the 17th to earlu 18th century. Geosophy is implied by Jesuit Priest Father Andrew White’s detail about the place of snakebite remedies, a tradition seen worldwide but especially in India and North America. “Effigies of Innocency” or “the Hieroglyphicks of our Adamitical or Primitive situation” are provided for explorers of plants by God, a belief mention by Maryland traveller George Alsop in 1666. The “sanative” nature of the herbs and medicines noted by Gabriel Thomas in his travels through the mid-Atlantic states in 1698 infers the geosophical tones underlying his expectations of the New World. The expectations of Adriaen Vander Donck (of ‘Donckers” or Yonkers, 1650), Josselyn during his travels to the Massachusetts area, and Reverend Francis Higgeson of the New England Plantation, 1630, all show us that the theme that Johanns Christoph Homann wrote his 1725/9 dissertation about was a long lived philosophy in need of consummation as a valid belief told in writing, summarized as an important part of both medicine and geography. [My notes on these “First Impressions” appears on another page.]
Beginning with Section 2 (II), the following translation was drawn from Homann’s writings. These paragraphs explain the basic theme of his philosophy Medicinae-Geosophiae (slight changed to Medical Geography, or Geosophy). [Note, these are awkward to follow at times; my additions to the text in brackets serve to slightly clarify this problem, but as one famous writer once said, ’twas Greek to me’ (or in this case Latin).]
[From] His Excellency Lord Friedrich Hoffman, in Diss. diseases in some regions of the household; [and] Excellency (short?) bachelor Vilerius. . . Of Geneva, from whom these statements can be made:
The children of doctors, though their art seems to be contained within the lattice Microcosmus, Macrocosmi knowledge, without having saluted the Geography should not pass. For all those who Machati instructed in the art, must have knowledge of the adjustments of the regions, and by how they live under heaven, and of which each of the grass of the potent for aid, the root of which grows in all the healing throughout the world, is come.
Since then, most of the causes of diseases to be supplied by the above mentioned things, no one cause [message of] is hidden [from them] v.g. many dangerous fevers [a]rising wet air impurities in[to] the human body [do so] to give rise, in the spring and autumn [to fevers] as well as various catarrhs, and [simple] catarrh, and the like to challenge [us], through certain meats, and [for] men [who] had the perverse manner of living [with] dysentery, [so to] intermittent fevers intend to be malicious, but that knowledge of the physicians in the ought to be to stand, so that the true origin of the causes of diseases and know how to, on the one side it is clearly evident, even the physician-Geosophian hence is expected to be able to [do this].
[Therefore] the labor of him on this side [pertaining to this statement], [and] the present implications of the use of, the manifold to which a connection [can be made], has [in relation to] Geosophia and the Art of Medicine . . . [the following] Preliminaries [first observances], which contain in themselves the particular indications [for illness, and] imply a special treatment for those diseases [experienced], [which relate to] the foundation of the inhabitants, the body of the earth, and quality [topography?], [along] with this or that region of the adjacent [regions]; this medicine will act or be [formed] out of the same connection with the first [observation], [in relation] to what will be shown in the second [observation] the disease. . . and so those who do not necessarily believe that only by the climate it happens, that depending on the intermediate cases, and. . . as always phenomena that are also observed, [and] presupposing as the physician does, that the place and premises enable one to see the relationships between these more clearly, and the observances of what comprise and define those who are well [or sick], [and] from these observations one can know at once who have suffered and how the disease circulating within them can be resisted.
The beginning of the preliminary theses of the above I shall note is worthy to note, that contrary to the consul and diseases, in certain provinces observed, [are places that appear] as though they have fixed, the right “grass” [=herb or plant] for the most part growing right in the midst of this condition, which they cure and such, growing in these places, he [the physician] finds it.
In order that this experience itself be confirmed and better known, at least concerning its meaning, as an example, in the case of land on Scorbutta [Scurvy] is hostile, Cochlearniam [Cochlearium] is copiously produced against this. Guaiacum wood antivenereum is proved [to be] in those places where crowds [are in need of] support for those who suffer from such evil, [near where] is growing. The read is a tree found in America, [growing] under the shadow of the men lying where its poison infects them, [Prepare~in preparation for their use], on the other hand, however, in the vicinity of the plant called Zellboqui [“Hellebore”] is the Scorpion for which it is used against the impact there of, . . . Rivinus is therefore not out of order in his dissertation on endemic diseases that are set or ixed to a place, that if any diseases are familiar [quite common] to this country, [then] certainty there it be concluded that there are a number of plants growing there [for treating it].
From this it follows, since the nature of the best things and more suitable to be acted on, if the rage in the land [is] of the particular disease, and is the very land of his plants are being healed, grasses [these herbs], are preferred to all others.
These herbs are more conducive to the [preservation of health in] inhabitants of these provinces, however, why does he [He?] order to heal diseases, among others . . . It seems to me these things, not the least reason to be, that God the Creator of all and the best physician for the bountiful and very wise at an infinite number of their own wisdom, will [state this is] so, [and] that if you have any vampires . . . harmed by the province of an unbroken line of the enemy, the same will be seen again regarding their own weapons. I think there are growing their own herbs, and other home remedies, which prevent it, [such illness], to have on hand, and for no treating other difficulty [or disease], [so] search for these relatives. But as anyone objects regarding this kind of disease foreign to the remedy, not a second [remedy] is necessary, [the fact] that the situation requires medicines from other provinces is claimed, with the benefit of exotics as well as domestic remedies must be devised in Pharmacopoliis? [i.e. the sympathy and the antipathy]
Geosophy or Geomancy?
Homann’s work is a more serious and theological interpretation of a science that existed for decades about the time this dissertation was written. The study of geomancy is another example of the study of ‘the power of place.’ In this case, however, this ‘power’ is very naturalistic and of a natural philosophical nature, and generally refers to some sort of natural energy power akin to that associated with dowsing and other readings in nature like astrology, chiromancy and palmistry. The contemporary form of geomancies were around for more than two centuries when Homann wrote his dissertation. His writings were obviously not akin to those of the 1500s and later.
Nevertheless, this distinction has to be made with regard to Homann’s writings due to his reliance upon theologians and “astronomers”, not astrologers, in his references to important writers and mentors. These acceptable ways of interpreting external or foreign metaphysical concepts aren’t new to the medical or scientific world during the late 1600s and 1700s. Robert Boyle’s interpretation of the ens martis (spirit of mars or Iron) and the fact that it is a natural product of modifying the older philosophy behind the spirit of venus (ens veneris), which in 1650 was not made of the venetian metal copper, is an example of how certain very specific philosophies have their own ways of becoming modified and re-adapted to newly accepted lines of philosophical reasoning. Even more important to note is that this ens veneris notion addressed by Boyle came from the 1651 writings on Ens Veneris by Christian alchemist George Starkey, an acquaintance of Boyle, residing in Bermuda of all places and then Harvard University during its earliest years. Boyle’s pilfering of Starkey’s recipe effectively converted it from that of Christian alchemy to a more respected Chemistry way of rethinking the spiritis of metals. Neither philosophy was at all correct, but one was slightly more correct and therefore more accepted than the other. [This ens veneris I cover extensively as a part of Hudson Valley philosophy ca. 1750-1770, Dr. Cornelius Osborn work, and was common to the Valley around 1730-1770, actively practiced by the Dutch in the period just prior to when Homann’s and Hoffman’s early 18th century philosophies and related medical disciplines became a part of the past.]
This same way of interpreting God or God’s energy in the universe and cosmos and terra settings is very much what was taking place with Homann’s metaphysical way of relating disease to place, and the natural or God-given cure for this disease to place. This way of viewing places is also present in more modern popular culture derived interpretations of the earth as Gaia, but is distinctly different from this version of “geosophy” as it is taught by the more recent rediscoverers of this form of faith. (see wikipedia’s page on ‘geosophy’ for more).
Compare Homann’s work with the following 1830s description of geomancy below.
The Homanns, Post-humously
Following his death, few writers mention J.C. Homann’s work on Medical Geosophy or Medical Geography. This is probably due to its predominantly religious nature and philosophical basis. In the years ahead, the term geosophy became a term considered a synonym to theosophy. This interpretation of the word itself as some sort of mostly religious-based concept kept many of the scientists and mathematicians away from Homann’s work, at least for a few decades.
Reviewing Google books for reference to this work for example revealed fairly few new writings until the late 1700s. Homann’s maps were very much a popular citation, but knowledge about Homann’s Medical-Geosophy nexus was lost to history for the most part.
In one review of the topic of medical geography, the following footnote appears on the history of the writings on this subject of medicine, not by an English writer or American physician or scientist, but by a German writer more learned in his own country’s success in the fields of medicine and science.
This is essentially timeline of the most important medical geography writings and geography-related medical essays published at the time of this writing, which was Zwei Abhandlungen zur practischen Medicin: I. Einleitung in die medicin … by Heinrich Schweich (Dusseldorf, 1846). The references noted in this footnote are translated as follows:
- Homann’s Medicine-Geosophy Connection. 1729.
- Cartheuser’s A pamphlet on morbid endemics. 1771.
- Finke’s Attempts at a general medico practice geography. 1792-5.
- Schnurrer’s Geographical nosology, or the doctrine of the changes in the disease in different parts of the world in conjunction with physical geography and natural history of man in Stuttgart. 1813.
- Isensee’s New Elements in Geography and Statistics in Medicine. 1833.
- Hasper’s On the nature and treatment of diseases of the tropics. 1831.
- Hoffman’s A Study of the Medical-Geography of Southern Europe. 1838.
One of the first solid re-entries of Homann’s work back into early Americana writings appears in the treatise on Louisiana published in 1817 by William Darby. With this work, Darby is trying to strengthen the United States’ claim to western territories. He covers extensively the geography of this new part of the United States and referes to Homann’s map, providing part of this map as an illustration of what he had to say about the physical topography, climate and habitability of the Louisiana proper.
This map by the Homann family was used because it represented to Darby one of the earliest, accurate renderings of North American lands, thereby demonstrating the early exploration, settlement and use of particular regions.
Von Christian Sandler. John Baptist Homann. Ein Beitrage zur Geschiste der Kartographie. Pages 328-384. Biography p. 382. In Zwei Abhandlungen zur practischen Medicin: I. Einleitung in die medicin … (1886) By Heinrich Schweich. [LINK].
Alma Norica Google Books Search.
Alma Norica and Johann David Köhler. ca. 1725-35.
Resources and References
La Medecine raisonnée. By Friedrich Hoffmann.