Vincent Priessnitz (1799 - 1851) is considered the founder of the hydrotherapy-nature cure movement. He developed a system of water cure based on keen observation of animals in their natural surroundings and how they would intuitively submerge an injured limb in water on a daily basis until it healed.  As a Silesian farmer, Priessnitz himself had many injuries which gave him the opportunity to practice the healing power of water on himself.
Priessnitz started sharing his observations with others and by the age of 19 he became was invited to Bohemia and Moravia to give treatments. Initially he did not charge for his services, but he observed that those that paid for their services tended to get better faster. Priessnitz's practice grew and overtime he added air treatments, a simple diet, and physical activity to cold water regimen to heal his patients.
At age twenty-six he established the first water-cure institute in Graefenberg, Austria, achieving curative success and subsequent fame in his homeland. “Our task”, he would say, “is not to treat the disease, but the patient.” Wilhelm Winternitz, MD carried on this practice and did much to popularize the therapy in his native Vienna.
"Priessnitz has always been granted the status of "father of hydrotherapy" but rarely is acknowledged as the progenitor of naturopathic medicine. Priessnitz is important to the history of naturopathic medicine as the first person to whom the term Naturarzt (nature doctor) can be applied." Kirchfield & Wade
Check out other information on the History of Naturopathic Medicine
- Kirchfeld Friedhelm, Boyle Wade (1994) Nature Doctors: Pioneers in Naturopathic Medicine NCNM Press, Portland, Oregon
- Lloyd Iva (2009) The History of Naturopathic Medicine, a Canadian perspective McArthur & Company, Toronto