Mure, the visionary who brought us the homeopathic art
Dr Paulo Rosenbaum

In November 1840, the French physician Benoît Mure disembarked in Rio de Janeiro, who would become the introducer of homeopathy in Brazil, reaching his personal fortune to spread medicine and direct it towards the treatment of slaves and those “excluded by society”

Contrary to what many believe, homeopathy has a long political and institutional history in this country. It has gone through various phases of rise and fall and at the end of the century it seems to be catching its breath. Homeopathy was officially introduced in Brazil by a direct disciple of Samuel Hahnemann, the Frenchman Benoît Jules Mure.

Benoît Mure (1809-1858) is an important character in the history of Brazilian medicine, especially in the context of homeopathy. He left influences and the repercussions of his work continue.

Mure arrived in the country after making a pilgrimage to Europe, where he spread and spread the principles of the then new medical art. Palermo (in Sicily), Paris, Cairo and Malta were in his homeopathic propaganda script.

When he landed in Rio de Janeiro aboard the French ferry Eole in November 1840, Mure was 31 years old and full of visionary projects. His story repeats that of many others: he was recovering from a pulmonary tuberculosis that affected him when he was under the homeopathic treatment given by Sebastião Des Guidi, disciple of Hahnemann and introducer of homeopathy in France. The son of a wealthy burgher from Lyons, Mure graduated in medicine in Montpellier (a stronghold of vitalist medicine).

This successful treatment was followed by an unsuccessful one, carried out by one of France’s most famous physicians in the early nineteenth century, the clinician Magendie.

However, we see that Mure’s scientific impulses are too intense to be just the fruit of gratitude for the medicine that saved him from a condition of tuberculosis. Mure finds logic – as the German physician and naturalist Constantine Hering had already done – and captures Hahnemann’s method, which is what particularizes his preference for homeopathy.

The introducer of homeopathy in Brazil, influenced by the ideas of Fourier and Jacotot, decided to found a Phalansterian colony in Santa Catarina, on the peninsula formed by the São Francisco River, called Colonia do Sahy.

a plan to the emperor

According to the records collected by Galhardo, it is known that on September 18, 1841, the French societal settlers were presented to the emperor, together with Mure. This colony was the initial purpose of the coming of Mure, who was the official representative of the Union Industrielle of Paris (Mure, 1999). Mure was presented to the emperor to outline his plan of action:

“I come, on behalf of all the suffering classes that aspire in France to change their position, to ask your majesty for the means to enjoy, under a tutelary government, the legitimate fruit of your labor.” (Mure apud. Galhardo, 1928: 280).

It is understandable, from this militant attitude of Mure, his later struggle, when he incorporated the treatment of slaves and the socially excluded in imperial Brazil into his homeopathy expansion project. In this context, the most recent political mobilizations are also understood, when homeopaths engaged in the country’s political and social struggles.

According to the homeopath and historian of homeopathy Galhardo, one of them, Antonio Ildefonso Gomes, was responsible for writing the first Brazilian document addressed to the National Congress, requesting, in writing, the restriction of slavery. It was Benoît Mure who founded the School of Homeopathy in Rio de Janeiro, in 1844, the embryo of the future Instituto Hahnemanniano do Brasil, officially founded in 1859.

The French doctor was a utopian, a misfit, and above all a person endowed with an invincible tenacity. These are those who believe that scientific development is really only evolution when there is simultaneous ethical progress. Hence, it is understandable why it occupied a substantial space in the socio-scientific context of Brazil in 1840.

social medicine

Mure tries to restore vitality to the medical thought of the recent Brazilian empire. He lectures for the future of medical art, is a proselyte of a more active social medicine, starts to defend the meanings and purposes of his particular conception of the objectives of public health.

Against an exclusive practice, he included in his project the treatment of slaves and social classes without access to Court medicine. In fact, homeopathy was, during the entire period of slavery, the only medicine used by slaves, since it had two essential qualities: low cost and efficiency.

There is a curious mixture in Mure’s proposals: socialism is always linked to religious passion. But it is precisely this characteristic that puts him on a list that is very particular to mankind: he is that type of tireless subject. He was a stubborn and perceptive ideologist and knew, as sociologist and professor at the UERJ Institute of Social Medicine Madel Luz showed, of the need for political support and academic endorsement to achieve more stable foundations for homeopathy.

So, Mure mobilized to achieve this support by putting pressure on institutions, making political contacts and seeking by various means a more respectable statute for homeopathic knowledge.

His aim was to get a favorable opinion from the medical academy for the then new medical school. It achieves recognition, but at a very high price, as the media resource it used as a platform for political support also served as the basis for subsequent attacks. A real war broke out in the big newspapers of the time, especially in the Diário do Comércio, and homeopathy became a national controversy.

It fell to the Brazilian physician Duque Estrada to be the first to apply, in some specific cases, homeopathy in Brazil. (Galhardo 1928, 275). Under his leadership, a popular pamphlet was published to hang on poles in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo with the aim of containing the cholera pandemic.

Duque Estrada defends homeopathic treatment to contain the yellow fever epidemic and writes to the Chamber of Deputies proposing a subsidy of 100 contos de reis for the creation of an infirmary for homeopathic treatment.

“Senator Vasconcelos voted for the abolition of official medicine, all freedom should be given to the physician to cure by the system of his choice” (Carvalho, 1857: 9).

Sahy’s corporate colony did not thrive. But Mure sees the spread of homeopathy as a no less noble perspective and implements it in several states.

He and his collaborators make true marketing plans: they think of expanding advertising to other states through emissaries, and in 1847 the Sociedade Homeopathica Bahiana, a branch of the Instituto Homeopathic do Brasil, is installed.

personal fortune

At the end of 1847, a Homeopathic Hospital was also opened, under the presidency of Duque Estrada. Several popular offices were opened in both Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. The resources for all this, at least initially, seem to have come from the personal fortune that Mure brought to the country as an inheritance.

The free offices were created by homeopaths in 1843 and seeing their success with the population and the increase in popular adherence to the treatment, the Imperial Academy of Medicine also decided to open them in 1848.

Already in poor health, apparently due to the reactivation of his pulmonary tuberculosis, and having already asked for his resignation from the position of director he occupied at the Homeopathic School of Brazil, Mure said goodbye to Brazil, from which he left in April 1848. Vicente Martins took over the Homeopathic School and restructured it, giving it a bolder curriculum.

After the departure of Mure – who died in Cairo ten years later, in 1858 –, new homeopathic organizations emerged: “Hahnemannian Society”, “Medical-Homeopathic Academy”, as well as the increase in the number of classical publications and originals. Driven and subsidized by the Homeopathic Institute of Brazil, it is time for other states to receive more information about homeopathy;

In the socio-historical context of the first half of the 19th century, what pioneer homeopaths, including Mure and his collaborators, did for the spread of homeopathy in this country, with its mistakes and successes, can only be defined, without apologetic exaggerations, as a work exceptional. For this reason, his theoretical work is of irreplaceable importance, both in understanding the current and past political-institutional situation of Brazilian homeopathy, as well as in today’s clinical practice.

But it is through his empirical/experimental work that his project acquired a worldwide dimension. Mure, in his “Brazilian Pathogenesis and the Doctrine of the Medical School of Rio de Janeiro”, directs and compiles a series of 39 pathogenesis (methodical experiments on medicinal substances) with substances obtained, selected and prepared according to homeopathic pharmacotechnics, in a historical period whose scientific difficulties were literally staggering. Editions of his book appear in 1853 (United States) and 1859 (Spain).

A natural choice for medicine

The scientific world had already recognized in a particularly generous way the works of travelers and naturalists who cataloged (scientifically and iconographically) the exuberant flora and fauna of this country. This is the case of Dutch doctors Piso and Marcgrave (members of Maurício de Nassau’s delegation), Saint-Hilaire, botanists Spix and Martius and less famous nineteenth-century researchers such as Freire Alemão, Velloso, Almeida Pinto, Caminhoá and Peckolt.

Now that we are approaching 500 years of discovery, it would be important to promote rescues and revise icons. Mure’s work failed to be recognized, especially for the study of the country’s fauna and flora. In addition, the author goes far beyond a pharmacodynamic/pharmacognostic cataloguing. It does not stop at making a mere compilation of medicinal effects or therapeutic indications of substances obtained from indigenous and popular medicine sources, very common in botanists’ treatises. He leads, directs and coordinates the presentation of medicines, many of them unprecedented, believing in the prodigality of a generous nature that offers curative means geographically close to the people who need them.

It presents listings of symptoms obtained through methodical experience. It does this using the Hahnemanian recommendations when adopting the criteria of a Hygantropharmacology (study of the effects of medicinal substances on man) when observations of effects – objective and subjective – on the totality are recorded.

The experimental work organized by Mure is not only suitable for historical research subsidies, and even a therapeutic instrument, as it actually represented an unusual milestone in the preservation of biodiversity. This at a time when such concerns were virtually non-existent. We would say then that the work of this idealist is provocative, original and above all of the most modern if we consider that there is a boom in current research looking for new medicinal substances in tropical forests, an investigation that the Homeopathic Institute of Brazil had been conducting since 1843.

It can be observed in “Patogenesia Brasileira”, the effort of the experimental work of Mure and João Vicente Martins (as well as other collaborators), the effort of a generation committed to the creative search for new visibilities for medicine, subjects and even for the social model itself. Visionaries who, like them, were willing to find medicinal substances, go to field research and organize a Brazilian medical material with elements obtained from the realms of nature, many of them ignored (or just cataloged) by other distinguished travelers

Paulo Rosenbaum, special for JT