Supplementary Appendix 85.1

Eulogies for Franz Wilhelm Böhmer

Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1788) 53b (Saturday, 1 March 1788), 584:

Death Notice. On 5 February 1788, universally lamented mining physician Dr. Johann Franz Wilhelm Böhmer died in Clausthal in the Harz Mountains, in the 34th year of life, of a feverish illness he probably contracted by breathing in the air of patients already ill with dangerous typhus fever. During his few years of service in the Harz Mountains, he was quite successful, amid the greatest sacrifice, in treating even the most dangerous illnesses; he was especially successful in providing considerable relief to the many miners suffering from a quite painful illness that the common folk usually call “cottage cat” but which in the Harz Mountains is lead colic, concerning which one would hope to see his own findings published soon. — Otherwise his very fine dissertation De nervuo noni paris [Diss. de nono pare nervorum cerebri] (Göttingen 1777) is well known.

A. B. Clausthal, 16 February 1788.

Georg Christoph Dahme, general superintendent in Clausthal and related to the Böhmers by marriage, wrote the following obituary in the Annalen der Göttingenisch-Lüneburgischen Churlande, vol. 2 (1788), 94–97:

Some Words on the Late Mining Physician
Dr. Böhmer in Clausthal

A knowledgeable and thinking physician, for proof of which I adduce simply his treatment of the so-called illness “cottage cat”* [*fn: The designation “cottage cat” refers to a colic arising from ingested lead steam. The pain experienced by patients is compared to the sensation that might be imagined if a cat were to tear apart one’s intestines with its claws. The illness usually results in a paralysis of the limbs.], to which a considerable part of the Clausthal population is exposed. No doubt a precise description of his treatment methods will be found among the manuscripts he left behind. These witnesses to his enduring and unusual diligence will doubtless provide a great treasure of important observations, since during the four years he was the only physician in the populous town of Clausthal (with its 8000 inhabitants) he experienced several unique epidemics, e.g., the dangerous brownskin (croup).** [**fn: One certainly hopes that a knowledgeable physician will publish at least excerpts from his manuscripts. There one will also read about an infection introduced into various innocent families by an aged midwife who was infected venereally, quite without her own knowledge, while assisting a dissolute person in giving birth (it must have occurred thus, she said): — an indeed extremely tragic event, perhaps even unprecedented for some, that caused the late physician unspeakable trouble, worry, and discomfiture, and that should certainly be made public in all its details to serve as a warning.]

No physician will ever be able to devote himself to his patients more completely than did he, nor with more ardent concern, concern, however, that never became burdensome or depressing, but rather always comforting and encouraging; patients were heartened by the mere sight of him, indeed, his appearance alone often enough served as medication for many of his patients. Nor did he make any distinctions of rank; he visited the lower born and the poor as assiduously and cared for them as faithfully as he did the higher born and prosperous, for he himself knew not selfishness; instead of taking, he gave generously, often unsolicited, in anticipation even, and with the sincerest joy, as is now extolled by so many. In general he possessed an extremely noble, humane, pleasant, amiable, genuinely loyal character; he was similarly almost always cheerful and merry, even when his already unpleasant profession might become even more so. But one simply cannot adequately express how much this man’s death was lamented and how much weeping it elicited. A footpath runs next to his grave (a vault in which his casket initially stands next to that of one of his worthy predecessors); during the first few days, sometimes smaller, sometimes larger groups gathered from among passersby who then loudly lamented this bitter loss, still gazing longingly toward the precious remains, then dispersing once more amid all the signs of genuine, bitter grief. And he was indeed the favorite of everyone who really knew him and who was able to appreciate moral worth. Hence just imagine what his more intimate friends, what his wife, what his children have now lost!

Yet may I also speak of his religiosity? It was sincere and warm, yet utterly without bigotry. He had a friend with whom he often spoke about religious topics, especially about the means to perpetual self-improvement, speaking then with such enthusiasm that his friend was not infrequently edified himself. This genuine religiosity gave his principles such strength, and so strengthened his own self-control, made him so pure in the pursuit of his profession, so faithful, and also made him (this young man who keenly sensed the grandeur of his earthly good fortune, to which he reckoned especially the possession of such an intelligent, cultivated, and upright wife and such dear, sweet children, in the eldest of whom he could already discern such wonderful talents and inclinations, and the youngest of whom, though barely ten months old, was already a charming angel — his genuine religiosity, I say, also made him, even amid a keen appreciation of the grandeur of his earthly happiness and the profound sadness into which his own death would plunge his so tenderly beloved spouse — made him so steadfast that, once he himself, after Christian preparation, recognized the seriousness of his illness and its danger, was nonetheless able to speak with her — yes even with her! — about the proximity of his departure, about her pregnancy, and everything he thought necessary to discuss, and to do so in such a comprehensive fashion and with such calmness of spirit, a calmness that could not help but astonish everyone who heard about it and which one could almost view as the result of some extraordinary assistance from God, whose fatherly beneficence toward him he also explicitly extolled during his life.

His body appeared healthy and strong, but a bilious nervous fever, which he probably contracted in pursuing his profession, undermined him completely in but a few short days. He passed peacefully into sleep (this is the proper expression) on the fifth of last month a bit after sunset in his 34th year. And now — “he will rest from his labor of love, and his deeds are allowed to follow him” [variation of Rev. 14:13].

Clausthal, 6 March 1788


Translation © 2011 Doug Stott