Baunscheidt’s Lebenswecker: The 19th-Century “Life-Awakener”

Another installment in our blog series that explores artifacts related to health practices now considered inaccurate or fraudulent. Check out Carl Baunscheidt’s Lebenswecker.

Baunscheidt's Lebenswecker, circa 1850. Item 436, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

Baunscheidt’s Lebenswecker, circa 1850. Instrument pictured with cap on and off. Item 436, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

The Lebenswecker, translated as the “Life-Awakener” or the “Resuscitator,” was developed by German inventor Carl Baunscheidt in the mid-19th century. The small instrument included over 30 thin, spring-loaded needles concentrated at the end of an ebony staff.

Detail of Lebenswecker.

Detail of Lebenswecker. Item 436, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

Carl Baunscheidt. From According to Baunscheidt, the Lebenswecker was designed to quickly puncture the skin, creating “artificial pores.” The “pores,” i.e. puncture wounds, were then covered with a proprietary irritating oil called “Oleum Baunscheidtii” that produced blisters. As another option, the practitioner could dip the needles in the oil before application, thus creating a more concentrated injection. As the blisters formed and drained, Baunscheidt claimed, the “health-destroying morbid matter” in the body naturally escaped.

Illustration of Adonis and Aphrodite with "most generally appropriate" areas of the body on which to use the Lebenswecker.

Illustration of Adonis and Aphrodite with “most generally appropriate” areas of the body on which to use the Lebenswecker. From Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure, 1865.

 

 

Baunscheidt developed a health philosophy around the Lebenswecker known as Baunscheidtism. His inspiration, as detailed in his book Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure, came from his experience watching mosquitoes bite his rheumatic hand. As he writes, “it seemed as if the pains he had suffered, had fled with the flies…the inflicted sting caused an opening in the epidermis just large enough for the fine, volatile, but pathogenic substances lodged in the skin to exude.”

speccoll_baunscheidt_hand

Detail of illustration from Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure, 1865.

Baunscheidt claimed that the Lebenswecker could cure everything from sleeplessness to measles to epilepsy. Baunscheidtism practitioners, like John Linden, made similarly broad claims. As Linden noted in his work, Manual of the Exanthematic Method of Cure, the Lebenswecker could eliminate a tapeworm because, after repeated applications, “the unwelcome guest will soon become disgusted with his quarters, and be compelled to vacate.”

Order sheet fixed inside John Linden's Manual of the Exanthematic Method of Cure, 1882.

Order sheet fixed inside John Linden’s Manual of the Exanthematic Method of Cure, 1882.

Baunscheidt’s philosophy, backed by personal testimonies included in his publications, achieved a measure of popularity in the 19th and early 20th century, especially in Germany and the United States. Today, his treatment is widely discredited.

Two differnt designs of Lebenswecker avaiable for research in the UCSF Archvies and Special Collection. Items 436, 242, Artifact Collection.

Two different designs of Lebenswecker. Items 436 and 242, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

We house two different “Life-Awakeners” in the UCSF Archives and Special Collections and a similar instrument developed by Baunscheidt called an artificial leech. Please contact us if you would like to come in and see the artifacts! We also have editions of John Linden and Carl Baunscheidt’s writings or you can read Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure online in our digital collection.

Unadulterated Holiday Spirits

Post by David Uhlich

‘Tis the season for reminders about the proper handling of Thanksgiving leftovers, cautions regarding the dangers of overindulgence, and USDA recommendations that you cook your turkey breast until it is roughly the texture of sawdust. A recent foray into the rare book vault indicates that almost 200 years ago a German chemist named Fredrick Accum was doling out similar fare.

From A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons..., Fredrick Accum, 1822.

From A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons…, Fredrick Accum, 1822.

In his book, titled simply Culinary Poisons (or more lengthily A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons, Exhibiting the Fraudulent Sophistications of Bread, Beer, Wine, Spiritous Liquors, Tea, Coffee, Cream, Confectionary, Vinegar, Mustard, Pepper, Cheese, Olive Oil, Pickles, and Other Articles Employed in Domestic Economy, and Methods of Detecting Them), Accum warns about the dangers of food additives and contamination, both for fraudulent purposes and as a byproduct of newly industrialized food production. For example, in his chapter “Disgusting Practice of Rendering Butchers’ Meat, Fish, and Poultry Unwholesome,” Accum rails against butchers who tamper with meat to make it appear fresher and those who mistreat animals that are meant for the table. While definitely a man of many words, Accum echoes current desires for natural, organic, cruelty-free foods. He would almost certainly approve of spending the extra money for that free-range heritage turkey.

From A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons..., Fredrick Accum, 1822.

From A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons…, Fredrick Accum, 1822.

Accum’s motto for the book is “there is death in the pot” (from 2 Kings 4:40), but he seems just as concerned with those that might tamper with the bottle. In the 344 page text, there are 30 pages dedicated to wine, 25 pages to spirits, and over 60 pages regarding the adulteration of beer. In fact, one of the numerous other books he wrote was A Treatise on the Art of Making Wine from Native Fruits; Elucidating the Chemical Principles upon Which the Art of Winemaking depends, the Fruits Best Adapted for Home-Made Wine, and the Methods of Preparing Them.  Sounds like the kind of person we’d all like to have at our holiday parties this year!

Lecture now online – History, Science, and Art of Ocular Prosthetics

The lecture History, Science, and Art of Ocular Prosthetics given by Robert S. Sherins, MD, in the UCSF Library on May 28th is now available free online.

lecture

This lecture, and the current exhibition on the fifth floor of the library, feature the Danz ocular pathology collection. The beautiful collection of glass eyes was exhibited several times during the past 50 years, however many historic details about this donation were lost. This unique artifact is used to tell the story of family traditions continued through the centuries on two continents. Through partnership with several members of the Danz family – ocularists: Phillip Danz of Sacramento; William Danz of San Francisco; and William Randy Danz of Ridgewood, New Jersey; as well as the author/lecturer, Dr. Robert Sherins, ophthalmologist, UCSF School of Medicine Alumnus Class of 1963; and UCSF archivist, Polina Ilieva, this exhibit demonstrates the evolution of skillful craftsmanship of Müller-Uri and Danz families, as well as the science and art of ocular prosthetics.

Please use this link to view Dr. Sherin’s presentation in full. More information about the story of the Danz collection can be found here.

About the UCSF Archives & Special Collections Lecture Series
UCSF Archives & Special Collections launched this lecture series to introduce a wider community to treasures and collections from its holdings, to provide an opportunity for researchers to discuss how they use this material, and to celebrate clinicians, scientists, and health care professionals who donated their papers to the archives.