Vincenc Priessnitz

Today we find out the name of our June mystery man and announce the names of the four winners who will be sent Radio Prague goodies. Listeners quoted: Hans Verner Lollike, Dean Bonanno, Jerry Dixon, Ralph Francis, Christopher Lewis, S. J. Agboola, Henk Poortvliet, Colin Law, Charles Konecny, Jayanta Chakrabarty, and David Eldridge.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox. Last week in this programme we announced the winner of Radio Prague’s annual writing contest and today it’s time to look at the English Section’s monthly quiz. So let’s take a look at some of the answers you sent in last month:

Hans Verner Lollike listens to Radio Prague in Denmark:

“Your mystery person this month is Vincenc Priessnitz who is the founder of hydrotherapy, born in Jeseník in North Moravia. It is quite a story, how he found out about the cleaning and healing power of water. And that in Polish the word for shower is named after him.”

…which is a detail Dean Bonanno from the USA found interesting, too:

“There are many things I'm sure your listeners will write about him which I won't repeat. However, three side notes on him – there is a monument of him in Vienna, the Polish word for shower (Prysznic) is derived from his last name, and a [local] band called itself Priessnitz.”

Jerry Dixon listens in Florida:

“He got the idea for hydrotherapy after seeing a roebuck with a wounded limb treating itself at a stream. He used this therapy to heal himself of a wounded finger and then later of broken ribs. He rebuilt his father’s home to include a sanatorium, and began treating patients. He gained his success by treating many royal patients which increased awareness of him and his hydrotherapy... He treated many notable patients, the most famous one being Nicolai Gogol, the famous Ukrainian author.”

Ralph Francis writes from Canada:

“Vincent Priessnitz developed cold water treatments for many ailments based on his own experiences. A colleague in Prague, when ill in his youth, remembers his mother putting him to bed with cold compresses. This followed the Priessnitz method that is still in use. Years ago, our stay in a spa at Karlova Studánka allowed us to visit Jeseník to consider the possibilities of visiting that spa, but I threw cold water on the idea.”

Christopher Lewis listens to Radio Prague in England:

“The answer is Vincenz Priessnitz, who was born in 1799 near Freiwaldau, now Jeseník. He was born into a family of farmers, who were amongst the first settlers. In the year 1838 after several setbacks, he was granted permission to build his spa, which he had started years earlier. He had eight daughters, and a son, who died soon after his birth. He died in the year 1851.”

S. J. Agboola is our regular listener in Nigeria:

“He pioneered the use of water in healing man and animal alike – a field of alternative medicine known as hydrotherapy. Despite the stiff opposition he encountered from so-called trained medical professionals, the efficacy of his healing method became widely acceptable as his patients cut across all strata of the society.”

Jeseník Spa
Henk Poortvliet writes from the Netherlands:

“The name you are looking for is Vincenz Priessnitz, sometimes called ‘the water doctor’, who made the Jeseník area known around the world as the birthplace of modern hydrotherapy.”

Colin Law from New Zealand again sent us a detailed account of Priessnitz’s life:

“His cures based on cold water bandages and compresses made him famous and his spa sanatorium in Gräfenberg attracted as many as 1500 patients a year, including members of European royal families... After complaints from ‘legitimate’ doctors the Imperial Home Office in Vienna sent Baron Turkheim to Gräfenberg to investigate Priessnitz. Baron Turkheim's report was favourable and in 1838 the sovereign of his own country granted to Vincenz Priessnitz a license to practise, a very rare exception for a man with no formal medical qualifications.”

Charles Konecny from Ohio was inspired by our quiz:

“You have to hand it to him. Although he had no formal education, he recognized the healing nature of spring water and compresses, which became the techniques of hydrotherapy. He had opposition along the way, but he refined the process (fresh air, exercise, diet, and rest) until it became a model for the medical field... It makes me want to go to a spa. (I have never been to one).”

Jeseník Spa, photo: CzechTourism
Jayanta Chakrabarty writes from India:

“His treatment though quite ordinary with cold water compresses and wet respiratory wraps enabled more than 40,000 patients to be cured of such diseases as gout, rheumatics, stomach aches and sicknesses accompanied by fever... Nature's endowment in the form of the beautiful Jeseníky Mountains and water springs greatly helped to promote this alternate medicine practice. The living testimony of Vincenz Priessnitz is the idyllic Jeseník Spa which is visited by thousands of visitors every year.”

And finally, this answer from our regular listener in the UK, David Eldridge:

“The Czech word for ‘it is raining’, prší, some say comes from Priessnitz’s name. He founded a prominent spa in Jeseník which attracted many aristocrats of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through its reputation of providing cures. To what extent water has healing power has long been debated in medical circles. It could be just the pleasant atmosphere of a spa bringing a feeling of well-being to a patient and it is that the assists the patient with a recovery.”

Many thanks for taking part in our little quiz. The four listeners who have been drawn out of the hat this time are: John Rutledge from the US, Ralph Francis from Canada, Christopher Lewis from the UK and Bibi Shah from Pakistan. Congratulations and your parcels are in the post.

For our July mystery man we needn’t travel too far from Jeseník – as both his parents were born in the region.

This month we are looking for the name of the Austrian composer born in 1797 whose parents hailed from the German-speaking areas of North Moravia. His father was born in Neudorf (now Vysoká, part of Malá Morava near the town of Šumperk) while his mother came from Zuckmantel (now Zlaté Hory).

Please send us your answers by the end of July to or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. Until next week, bye-bye.