Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann was born into poverty in Saxony, Germany in 1755. His eduction was interrupted on numerous occasions due to his family's (and later his own) financial difficulties. It was Hahnemann's rare gift for languages that allowed him to secure the kind of education that normally would've eluded someone from such a humble background.
After several delays caused by financial woes, Hahnemann earned his doctorate in medicine in 1779, but found himself becoming increasingly critical of many popular medical treatments - bloodletting, blistering plasters and purgatives among them - which he felt had no firm scientific basis.
While translating a medical book in 1790, Hahnemann felt the reason given for the success of cinchona bark in treating malaria was incorrect. In a quest to determine the truth, Dr. Hahnemann (who did not have malaria) ingested cinchona bark over a prolonged period and discovered that it caused symptoms in him that he would've expected to see in someone suffering from malaria. From this he hypothesized that an illness can be cured by treating it with a substance that produces the same symptoms in a healthy person that the illness produces in a sick person.
Not content to simply float the hypothesis, Dr. Hahnemann and his collegues set out to prove it by testing all sorts of substances on themselves and on willing volunteers to see what symptoms the substances produced. They then began treating illnesses with the substances that caused the most similar symptoms. While doing this, Dr. Hahnemann discovered another principle of homeopathy: Substances were most effective in treating the targetted illnesses when they were profoundly diluted.
In 1807, Dr. Hahnemann coined the term homeopathy and three years later published the results of his experiments in "Organon of Rational Therapeutics", a text that remains integral to the practice of homeopathy to this day.
Soon after its publication, Dr. Hahnemann aided in an outbreak of "ship fever" during the Battle of Nations near Leipzig. Although roughly 30% of sufferers commonly die from this fever, only one of the nearly two hundred patients under Dr. Hahnemann's care passed away. Twenty years later, his use of homeopathy during a cholera outbreak would prove similarly successful.
Dr. Hahnemann died in Paris in 1843 at the age of 88. By that time, homeopathy was firmly established in Europe and America.