Scientific and informed approach to sea mud as a treatment method as well as forming a resort, which became well-known all over Russia is related to the name of medical doctor Carl Abraham Hunnius.
C. A. Hunnius was born on August 3, 1797 (according to the old calendar July 23) in Tallinn in the family of a German merchant. His father came from Magdeburg and was a successor of the famous 16-century theology professor, Aegidius Hunnius, who fought for Lutheran theory. Carl Abraham got his comprehensive education at Tallinn cathedral school and studied medicine at the University of Tartu in 1815-1819.
Arrival at Haapsalu
In 1820 23-year old Carl Abraham Hunnius, who had just graduated from the university, came to Haapsalu to assist the district doctor G. Printzi as a head of the garrison?s hospital for the disabled. For Russia, beginning of the century had been full of wars. However it did not touch upon Haapsalu directly, the reflections of war reached here: most of the hospital?s patients were former soldiers, now invalids, crippled, ill people, who needed treatment and care.
Apparently the main activity of Dr Hunnius was initially related to military hospitals of those times and treating invalids of war. Besides he had to treat local inhabitants.
Beginning of serious scientific research
Besides practical activities C.A. Hunnius was interested in scientific problems and already in 1821 he defended his thesis at the University of Tartu about a dermatological inflammation, in these times widespread among Estonians, often causing sepsis and death. One copy of the thesis in Latin ‘De morbo: Sinni wil (blaue Blatter) nominato, carbunculo quodam Esthonia rusticis endemo’ is now maintained at the Museum of Läänemaa. Professors of the University of Tartu considered his thesis one of the most thorough and remarkable of these years.
After defending his thesis successfully, the young medical doctor expected to go abroad for some time, but his strenuous work at the hospital and as an assistant district doctor and later as the district doctor made him give up this idea. Only in 1845 and 1847 he took two trips abroad in order to complement his professional knowledge.
The road to curative mud
The young doctor was constantly looking for opportunities to make treatment more efficient. He prescribed original new mixtures, promoted bathing in the gulf of Haapsalu, which had already been popular since 1805.
Immediately after his arrival at Haapsalu his attention was drawn by a method of treatment, which had never been mentioned in medical books nor dealt with by learned medics, but was well-known and widely used by local inhabitants.
R. Kaulitz-Niedeck writes in his book ‘Hapsal, ein nordisches al fresko’ (1930) how Dr. Hunnius became aquainted with the curative qualities of Haapsalu sea mud. Often routine visits took him to poor coastal fishermen?s houses. During one visit he noticed an old fisherman, who kept his bare feet in sun-warmed mud. He told the doctor that he had arthritis and keeping his feet in warm mud relieved the pain. Dr. Hunnius started to research. He made first tests with his patients and soldiers of the local garrison. The results were amazingly good in cases of several diseases and based on this experience Dr. Hunnius started to create indications and methods for using the mud. He recommended local wraps, baths (diluted with warm seawater), massages and body rubs. Bathing in warm sea followed the procedure.
Hunniu`s list of diseases, treated by mud and sea water included about 20 diseases, however according to contemporary medicine some of them cannot be treated with mud. In addition to clinical observation he carried out some simpler examination of the mud`s chemical composition.
The first mud therapy institution in Haapsalu
In 1825 Dr. Hunnius initiated and instructed creation of the first hydro-mud therapy institution. It was financed by a progressive local count Magnus De la Gardie. The institution was located where Suur-Liiva Street is now.
As the count`s relatives in Sweden started teasing him and calling him and his wife ‘the sauna attendants’ he sold the institution some months after completion to a pharmacist Franz Heinrich Brasche.