History of sports medicine - 1821-1825


The prison treadmill found its way to the United States and in New York eight to ten prisoners daily milled corn from forty to fifty bushels for ten hours, which corresponds to about 1,400 to 1,750 liters. A few years later this punishment was no longer applied.


Austrian Vincent Prießnitz (1799-1851) is generally regarded as the founder of modern hydrotherapy. He emphasized the value of suitable food, fresh air, physical activity, rest and water. In 1822 he converted his parental home in Gräfenberg into a sanatorium with salvatin baths.

As Priessnitz's experience grew, the procedures of his treatments became more precise and regular. He would wrap patients in wet bandages and layers of blankets to cause heavy perspiration from heat as a treatment for various diseases. After several hours, the patient was instructed to bathe in cold water, and to drink plenty of water. He believed that the rapid changes in temperature allowed to open the vessels and evacuate bad substances in the blood. Another theory from Priessnitz was that the body naturally tended towards health. His treatments, which did not use drugs or herbal medicines, were designed to remove foreign matter from the body. He claimed extreme conditions disturbed the substances, which prompted a bodily response.

Priessnitz was highly regarded on the European continent, the British author Richard Metcalfe (1861-1954) wrote in 1898 the biography 'Life of Vincent Priessnitz, Founder of Hydropathy', in which he noted:

"There are hundreds of institutions where the water purification is carried out according to the principles laid down by Priessnitz."


In the United States, Catharine Beecher (1800-1878) was one of the pioneers who created a consciousness for fitness. As a strong advocate to include physical education in the school program and with her propaganda for daily practice by both sexes, she developed a gymnastics program that could be performed on music.


The Belgian physician César-Mansuète Despretz (1791-1863) who later took on the French natinality, designed the respiratory calorimeter.

The water jacket room (c) was the same as that of his Irish colleague Adair Crawford (1749-1795). The improvements were the addition of a paddle (a), the distribution of body heat via water and the routing of the air through a water bath so that the body heat was caught in the air. The air was forced through the system from the right to the left via the water in the right meter (G '). The gas analysis was done in the tank on the left (G). For accurate gas measurements, a manometer maintained the correct air pressure in the tank.


German-born American Karl Beck (1798-1866) was Professor at Harvard University. Born in Heidelberg, his mother moved to Berlin after her husband's death, where she was appointed Professor of Theology. During his secondary studies Beck had joined the Hasenheide Turnplatz and he became an excellent gymnast. He studied classical languages at the University of Berlin and later Theology at the University of Heidelberg, but he received his PhD at the University of Tübingen. He moved to Switzerland where his stepfather was Professor. In 1824 he went to Paris and together with a friend he ventured a few months later to the United States, where he became a Latin teacher at the Round Hill School of Northhampton, Massachusetts.

He founded an open-air gym that introduced the first school gymnastics program. Beck also gave gymnastics lessons based on the system of Friedrich Jahn (1778-1852). Together with two colleagues he opened a school in 1830 on the Hudson River in Philipstown, New York. In 1832 he was appointed professor Latin at Harvard.