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Sebastian Kneipp (May 17, 1821, Stephansried, Germany – June 17, 1897, in Bad Wörishofen) was a Bavarian priest and one of the founders of the naturopathic medicine movement. He is most commonly associated with the "Kneipp Cure" form of hydrotherapy- the application of water through various methods, temperatures and pressures which he claimed to have therapeutic or healing effects.
Kneipp was born in 1821 in Bavaria. His father was a weaver, and Kneipp trained as a weaver until he was 23 when he began training for the priesthood. He fell ill with tuberculosis, and claimed that he was healed by a "water cure" that he read in a book that he found. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1852.
In the 19th century, there was a popular revival in the application of hydrotherapy, instigated around 1829 by Vincent Priessnitz, a peasant farmer in Gräfenberg, then part of the Austrian Empire. This revival was continued by Kneipp, "an able and enthusiastic follower" of Priessnitz, "whose work he took up where Priessnitz left it", after he came across a treatise on the cold water cure. At Worishofen, while serving as the confessor to the monastery, he began offering treatments of hydrotherapy, botanical treatments, exercise and diet to the people who lived in the village. Some of his suggested treatments included "ice cold baths and walking barefoot in the snow" and other "harsh" methodologies. In 1893, M. E. Bottey described Kneipp's water cures as "dangerous in most cases".
Worishofen became known as a place with a reputation for spiritual healing. In addition to "peasants", Kneipp's clients also included Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his father, Archduke Karl Ludwig as well as Pope Leo XIII. Others took Kneipp's processes back to their home countries to found alternative therapy spas and colleges. In America, Kneipp Societies were founded, which, under the influence of Benedict Lust, changed their name to Naturopatic Society of America.
Kneipp's book My Water Cure was published in 1886 with many subsequent editions, and translated into many languages. He also wrote "Thus Shalt Thou Live", "My Will", The care of children in sickness and in health.
In 1891, he founded Kneipp Bund, and organization that promotes water healing.
Kneipp died in 1897.
Archduke Josef dedicated his medical atlas to Kneipp. Kneipp's likeness was featured on a stamp.*His recipe for whole wheat bread, called Kneippbrød, is the most commonly eaten bread in Norway.
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