This is the first book to introduce Western hydrotherapy to the Ottoman world. Focusing upon the hot springs of Bursa, Bernard wanted to promote the healing effects of warm waters for the body and mind to the general Ottoman population, beyond medical circles. He was himself a regular and enthusiastic visitor to the resort, seeking to treat his problems with rheumatism.
The pamphlet gives instructions on how to use the hot springs, explains the temperatures, the time and frequency of using the waters, and introduces the importance of dieting, fresh air and walking. Bernard also describes the historical and architectural monuments of Bursa, a famed city that served as the Ottoman capital from 1326 to 1402.
The medical uses of hot water springs, or hydrotherapy, was highly popular in the times of antiquity. However, in Europe it subsequently fell out of favour for centuries until it was revived in the early 19th century, promoted by figures such as Vincent Preissnitz, the head of a hydropathy clinic in Gräfenberg, Bavaria, in 1826.
The work was originally published under the French title Les Bains De Brousse en Bithynie (1844). The present first Ottoman language edition was commissioned by Sultan Abdulmejid I, following one of his visits to Bursa. It was published by the printing house of the Medical School and sold for a price of 12 cents.
Karl Ambros Bernard
Through the first decades of the 19th century, the medical system of the Ottoman Empire was in desperate need of modernization. Sultan Mahmud II (1785 – 1839) made a major step in this direction in the last year of his reign, as part of his ‘Tanzimat’ (Reorganization) Era reforms.
The Ottoman Empire’s introduction into the world of modern medicine came in the unlikely form of a modest thirty-one-year-old Austro-Hungarian medical doctor, Karl Ambros Bernard.
Bernard was born in 1808 in Jilemnice, Austrian Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic).
Raised in a middle-class family, he completed high school in the Czech town of Žatec, continued his studies of philosophy in Prague and eventually graduated from the Josephinum, the renowned medical school in Vienna. His first career assignment was to serve as a military medical doctor in Bukowina, a remote Austrian imperial province on today’s Ukrainian-Romanian border.
His professional breakthrough came when he was fighting the cholera pandemic that affected the the soldiers on the border between Russia and Austrian Galicia. There, Karl Ambros Bernard founded his own hospital for the ill and preformed the first obduction on a person who had died of cholera. He documented the procedure with a detailed medical report.
In 1838, Bernard finished his doctor thesis on the use of electricity in medicine titled, Dissertatio inauguralis de functionibus fluidi electrici prae reliquis corporis humani sub statu sano et morboso.
Shortly thereafter, Professor Friedrich Jäger von Jaxtthal (1784 – 1871) recommended Bernard to Sultan Mahmud II as one of the two candidates to lead the Sublime Porte’s programme for the reorganization of the Ottoman medical system.
Bernard’s field work in remote areas taught him improvise and make do with limited resources, while mastering a variety of languages. This gave him the ideal skill for his appointment as the first professor at the Imperial Medical School (Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane) for army doctors in Galata, Istanbul.
In 1838 or 1839, depending on the sources, Bernard, weathering the jealousy from his Austrian colleagues, moved to Istanbul on the invitation of the sultan to reorganize the Imperial Medical School on the principles of the Josephinum. He was accompanied by anther Austrian physician, Jakob Anton Neuner (1806-1842), born in Celje, in today’s Slovenia, who soon found the Orient unaccommodating and returned home in the late 1839, following Mahmud’s death.
When Bernard arrived in Istanbul, he found the medical school in a disintegrated state. It took him six months of hard work to reorganize the basic system and build new premises under the watchful and sometimes inflexible eye of the imperial doctor to the severely ill sultan, Abdülhak Molla. He also established a modern medical library and founded an anatomical and natural sciences cabinet.
During his almost six years in Ottoman service, Bernard became a pioneer of modern pharmacology and medical education in Istanbul, revolutionizing the healthcare system in the Ottoman capital. He published four medical books, one of which one was translated into Ottoman. All these works were predicated upon Bernard’s direct experience in educating young Ottomans, as well as his endeavours to introduce new technical words to the Ottoman Turkish language with previously did include such terminology.
Bernard’s works were:
– Eléments de botanique à l’usage des élèves a l’Ecole de médecine imperiale de Galata Serai (1842).
– Les Bains De Brousse en Bithynie (1842), translated to Ottoman as Kaplıca Risalesi (1844).
– Précis de percussion et d’auscultation à l’usage de ses leçons (1843).
– Pharmacopee Militaire Ottamane (1844).
During his six years working as the first principal instructor at the Imperial Medical School, Bernard navigated a treacherous path between offending the sensitives of those wedded to traditional local medicine practices while boldly introducing the latest trends of Western medicine to the Ottoman Empire.
The first steps were slow and strenuous due to the lack of technical terms in the Ottoman language, and for this reason all the lectures were held in French only. The students with insufficient knowledge of this foreign tongue had to first pass a French course, often a forbidding challenge. It would not be until 1870 that courses held entirely in the Ottoman Turkish language were offered at the Imperial Medical School.
The other major problem was the clash of the modern medicine with the Islamic law, regarding the treatment of the bodies of the deceased; this slowed Bernard’s attempts to introduce autopsy courses to the students.
This revolutionary experiment set the precedent for further medical examinations, which could henceforth be conducted on Christians, slaves and prostitutes.
Two year later, the first Ottoman book on autopsy, describing Bernard’s procedures and findings, was published under the title Makalat-ı Tıbbiye.
In 1844, Karl Ambros Bernard’s hard work began to pay off. He was awarded the Order of Honour by Sultan Abdulmejid I for his outstanding contributions to the empire. In October of the same year, he wrote a letter, brimming with optimism, in which he looks forward to beginning his seventh year of teaching in Istanbul, the Austrian crown having prolonged his contract with the sultan for another five years.
Tragically, however, less than a month after penning this letter, Karl Ambros Bernard suddenly suffered from infected parotid gland, which overnight manifested itself in severely swollen teeth and a high fever. He died fifteen days later at only the age of 36.
The news of Bernard’s death, on November 2nd, 1844, was overshadowed by the celebration of the birth of Mehmed Reşâd, the future sultan Mehmed V.
Bernard’s young widow Theresa von Kleßl commissioned an epitaph, which still stands by the outer northern wall of the Catholic Church of Saint Mary Draperis in Istanbul, on today’s İstiklal Avenue.
The pioneering work of Bernard, a prematurely deceased, brave young scientist and educator was continued by his followers and students, who guided by his lectures and books, succeeding in further upgrading Ottoman medicine in line with the best Western techniques and inventions.
All works by Karl Ambros Bernard are rare today, as the Imperial Medical School burned down together with the library in 1848.
References: Neuer nekrolog der Deutschen, 1, 1846, pp.730-736; Max NEUBURGER, Österreichische Ärzte als Pioniere der wissenschaftlichen Medizin und des Sanitätswesen in der Türkei (1839-1856), Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift, 38, 1917. H. ÖZTÜRK – C. KARASU, Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Adliye-i Şahane’nin kurucusu Charles Ambroisse Bernard’ın eserleri ve Osmanlıya etkileri üzerine bir değerlendirme. Adli Tıp Bülteni, 2014;19(3) pp. 125-134; Salih Murat AKKIN – Gülten DINÇ, A Glimpse into the process of gaining permission for the educational dissection of human cadavers in the Ottoman empire, Clinical Anatomy 27 2014, pp. 964–971.
Worldcat lists only a single institutional example (Bavarian State Library).
References: OCLC 635143404. Hülya ÖZTÜRK, ‘Charles Ambroise Bernard’ın (1808-1844) Kaplıca Risalesi Üzerine Bir Değerlendirme’, in Osmangazi Journal of Medicine, vol. 37, no. 2 (2015), pp.1-8.