• Full Name:
    Dr Johannes Werner Günst
    Dr Johannes Werner Gunst
  • Role:
    Registered practitioner
  • Occupation/s:
    Homœopathic physician, Hydropath
  • State:
    New South Wales
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:

(Material researched & presented by Barbara Armstrong)


[1825 - 1894]



Johannes Werner Günst was born in Amsterdam, Holland in 1825.


 A medical graduate of the University of Leyden in Holland in 1847, he worked his way out to Australia as a ship’s surgeon on the San Francisco. He originally went to Sydney, New South Wales in 1852, where he practised as an allopathic physician. There he founded the first hydropathic establishment in Australia [for thermotherapy].


It is unclear when Dr Günst commenced his investigations into homœopathy, but it was evidently several years later, because he spoke of his efforts to convert the doctors at Mauritius where he assisted with the treatment of cholera victims.


For several years he had a medical practice in Grafton, New South Wales.   In 1853 he married Jane McNeily.  Their adopted son, Charles Werner Günst was born on 15 May 1858 and died 13 June 1914.  One of the death notices for Charles stated that he was the 'loved adopted son' of Dr Günst.  It also stated that he was the youngest son of the late Charles and Mrs Brothers, Grafton, Clarence River. Further investigations indicate that his biological parents were probably Charles and Priscilla Brothers, who had moved from Berrima to Grafton around 1859. (In later years Charles Werner also became a doctor.)


In 1859 Dr Günst informed the inhabitants of Grafton and neighbouring towns that he was providing consultations at his residence in Queen Street, opposite the Racecourse, Alumy Creek.



                                      Advertisement in 1867

                            (with the incorrect street number cited)

During 1865, while Dr Günst was practising in Grafton his name appeared in the Government Gazette, stating that he had obtained his certificate from the New South Wales and Victorian Medical Boards as a legally qualified medical practitioner, with the additional honour of having passed as a Doctor of Medicine.


His obituary recorded that he came to Melbourne in 1864.  However, shipping records show that he arrived from London on 28 August 1865 aboard the Kosciusko.  His wife arrived later, in January 1866.  Their first residence was in St Kilda. 


In March 1866 he advertised that he had moved from St Kilda to 153 Colins St East, with his consulting rooms being at 90 Collins Street East, the address for Gould's Homœopathic Pharmacy.  During April and May of 1866 he advertised that he could be consulted at Castlemaine and Bendigo.  He visited Castlemaine every alternate Sunday at Mr Vincent's, dyer, Barker Street and stated that he was able to visit patients at their residences.  On the other Sundays he provided consultations at the Homœopathic Dispensary and Galvanic Rooms next to the Bath Hotel, View Point, Bendigo.  He advertised that he was the "successor to Dr Madden" who was last listed in 1866.  At the same time he moved his practice from the pharmacy to his private residence at 153 Collins Street East. 


In  September 1866 he established the 'Melbourne Hydropathic Institution' at 149 & 151 Collins Street East (also listed at times as number 153), near the Melbourne Club.  He provided accommodation for invalids and out-door patients.  Advertisements stated that:


"Patients can be accommodated with single bedrooms, or suites of apartments.  Dr Günst has most successfully combined Hydropathy with his other practice in these colonies for upwards of 14 years."


It was in Melbourne that he devoted himself to the study of homœopathy. In the 1868 edition of the Sands Directory he advertised the Hydropathic Institution AND his occupation as a homœopathic physician.  Dr Günst enraged the opponents to homœopathy by publishing in the medical journals of the day arguments which pointed out the fallacies of the objections to homœopathy.



                                              Advertisement in 1868


However, he was not entirely antagonistic to his allopathic roots. In a publication entitled Allopathy versus Homœopathy (1870), he described is own practice in the following way:


“I am, to all intents and purposes, an ECLECTIC PHYSICIAN. I have studied Allopathy, Homœopathy, and Hydropathy; have had considerable practice in each; and without being a slave to any One system, I employ such means as appear to me most likely to cure, or relieve, my Patients – my business as a Doctor, is not to adhere to any One mode for fashion’s sake, but to save my Patients from the grave, and restore them to health – if I can.”


He was an active member in founding the Melbourne Homœopathic Dispensary at 153 Collins Street East, which was opened in November 1869 to provide free services to the poor people of Melbourne.  This had been the location of the Melbourne Hydropathic Institution.  However, earlier that year Dr Günst had moved to 93 Collins Street East, beside the Independent Church.  At this time he advertised 'Dr Günst's Hydropathic and Homœopathic Sanitorium, Melbourne and South Yarra'.  The South Yarra establishment, named 'Blair Gowrie' (or Blairgowrie), was located on the East side of Chapel Street, on the summit of the hill beside the Yarra River.


"Parties desirous of change of air, or temporary rest, as well as invalids in search of health from the invigorating water treatment, may find a comfortable home.  Persons in business can be accommodated at the Collins Street establishment, and have the advantage of spending from Saturday to Monday at Blair Gowrie."


 'Blairgowrie', Chapel Street, South Yarra

Artist:  Louise Hamilton 1878

(State Library of Victoria)

Dr Günst gave his medical services to the Dispensary from its inception until 1873, when he resigned his honorary medical post, although he remained on the Board of Management of the Homœopathic Hospital until 1893.


In June 1870 he issued a pamphlet called 'Diphtheria: its Simple Treatment'.  In August 1870 Dr Günst published 'Homœopathic Progress in Australia – A Monthly Journal of Record and Domestic Practice', a journal which appeared monthly for one year. This journal explained homœopathy to practitioners; it also contained articles for the layperson on issues such as basic hygiene, simple anatomy and physiology, discussions on the treatment of common diseases (especially children’s diseases) etc.


As a result of major outbreak of diphtheria throughout Victoria, the Government decided to establish a Royal Commission to determine the causes and best means of treatment for the disease.  In January 1872 Dr Günst, along with several allopathic doctors, was invited to serve on the Commission.  His appointment was met with opposition from many in the allopathic community, and some of the appointees to the Commission resigned as a result.  Dr Günst defended his appointment on the basis of his extensive experience in the treatment of the disease both in Australia and overseas, and consequently remained on the Commission.  


Soon after Dr Eben Colman Gould arrived in Melbourne in March 1873, he and Dr Günst entered into a partnership.  


In November 1873 Dr Günst advertised that he provided consultations every Saturday at the Homœopathic Pharmacy in Sturt Street, Ballarat.


In May 1874 Dr Günst purchased 153 acres of land in Boroondara fronting Cotham (Whitehorse) Road and Balwyn Road in the Balwyn area.


Gunst-Balwyn 1874
Dr Günst's property in Balwyn 1874

Taken from the Plan of Shire of Boroondara

(State Library of Victoria)

In October 1874, the partnership between Dr Gould and Dr Günst was dissolved by mutual consent.  Dr Günst provided consultations from 93 Collins Street East.  He also attended patients at High Street St Kilda on Mondays and Fridays, and Main Road (Bulleen Road) Kew on Wednesdays.


From 1874 to 1879 his registered addresses included Whitehorse Road, Boroondara.  He also purchased a house in Muir Street, Richmond.


In 1881 Dr Günst purchased the property called 'Holland House' at 185 Flinders Street East, which was near the corner of Spring Street and Flinders Street.  Initially this was his private residence, while he continued to provide consultations from 93 Collins Street East.  However, from 1882 his practice moved to the Flinders Street address.


 In 1887 and 1888 his recorded address was Normanby Road, Kew. 


In August 1889 it was reported that he was retiring to practise in Geelong, where he had purchased several properties including 'Barwon Grange' (which is now owned by the National Trust), 'Roslyn' and 21 allotments in Barwon Crescent and Fairymead estates.  Holland House, his property in Melbourne, was leased to Dr Macnutt who was also a homœopathic physician.  


In January 1891, an advertisement appeared in the Geelong Advertiser stating that Dr Günst had already left Australia, and that his numerous properties in Geelong were for sale.


In fact, Dr Günst had moved to San Francisco, California where, on 5 May 1891, he was registered as a homœopathic physician.  There is no evidence that his wife accompanied him to America.  He visited Australia in 1892, returning to live in Australia in March 1893.  In April 1893 he advertised that he was practising at 32 Collins Street, opposite the Oriental Hotel near the Melbourne Club.  (Note that by this time the street numbering system in Melbourne had altered and streets were no longer described as being 'East' or 'West').


 In August 1893 he moved to 58 Collins Street, next to the United Service Club Hotel.  It was here that Dr Günst died ‘from an attack of apoplexy’ on 19th April 1894 aged 69.  His Will left the proceeds of his estate to the under-aged child of his deceased mistress.


[Note that in many publications Dr Günst’s name is shown as “Dr Guenst”. This spelling results from times when typewriters and computers could not cope with the accent above the ‘u’, and the usual method of showing the presence of the accent was to add the ‘e’ after the u.]


©   Barbara Armstrong     


  • Created:
    Tuesday, 22 March 2011
  • Last modified:
    Sunday, 24 December 2017