The History of Homeopathy

Homeopathy emerged in Germany / Austria towards the end of the 18th century, and early 19th century as a result of work by Dr Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, of Meissen, Saxony (1755-1843).

Now known as the 'Father of Homeopathy', Samuel Hahnemann believed that the highest purpose of medicine was "to restore health rapidly; gently; permanently; to remove and destroy the whole disease in the shortest, surest, least harmful way".

As is true of many revolutionary thinkers, he encountered much opposition from the establishment of the day.

Early Work undertaken by Hahemann

Hanhemann's principles of homeopathy were developed at a time (early 1800s) when many areas of human activity were in states of upheaval and reorganisation. Nevertheless, many of the issues he encountered, such as hostility from the medical establishment and remedy-providers of the day might be familiar to practitioners of alternative medicine today.

Hahnemann's childhood included much poverty and continual efforts to gain an education to develop his considerable academic abilities. He mastered many languages in addition to his native German. These included Latin, French, English, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic. In 1775 Hahnemann went to study medicine, first in Leipzig and later in Vienna, eventually receiving his medical degree from Erlangen in 1779. He then practised medicine in addition to continuing to study several other scientific subjects including chemistry. He also continued his work as a technical translator, an occupation that brought him into contact with the latest scientific concepts of his time, and he gained a reputation as a scientist and scholar in his own right.

Hahnemann wrote and published open criticisms of the conventional medical practices of his day. Examples of these include blood-letting (draining large amounts of blood using various techniques), burning the skin to release pus (infection being drawn out of the body) and administering large doses of drugs to induce vomiting, evacuate the bowels, and so on. Hahnmann believed that these technqiues weakened the body's capacity to heal itself and were dangerous.

As a result of his views he withdrew from practising conventional medicine as his full-time occupation. Instead he earned his living mainly from his translation activities.

1790

Hahnemann translated William Cullen's "Treatise of the Materia Medica". This inspired him to question some of the analysis and research it himself by ingesting the drug 'cinchona (Peruvian Bark) himself.

1796

Hahnemann's "Essay on a New Principle for Asceraining the Curative Powers of Drugs, with a Few Glances at Those Hitherto Employed" introduced two key principles on which homeopathy would later rest:

  • The curative power of a remedy being associated with it's similarity to he disease it causes.
  • Trials may be conducted by giving the remedy to healthy people and observing the symptoms that result - the same substance may then be used to cure such symptoms in sick people.

1796

Hahnemann practices medicine based on his 'Law of Similars'.

1805

Hahnemann published a small volume of trials (called 'provings' based on the German word) of 27 medicines he had tested on himself.

1810

Hahnemann published First Edition of the "Organon of Rational Healing", later re-released entitled "Organon of the Healing Art". This stated the principles of homeopathy, and also Hahnemann's objections to the orthodox medicine of the day.

1812

Hahnemann moved to a position as a Univerisity Lecturer in Leipzig and began to develop a group of scholars/followers interested in his approach. They met at his home and carried out trials under his supervision.
Hahnemann's "Materia Medica Pura" was published in 6 volumes, detailing the trials that had been carried out to date using Hahnmann's techniques.

1821

Hahnemann, under pressure from both the Medical Establishment in Leipzig - and also the dispensing chemists (pharmacys) who objected to his preparing and supplying remedies, moved to Anhalt Koethen to take up a position as personal physician to Duke Ferdinand. There he was permitted to prepare his own remedies and continued his practice for the next 14 years.

1828

Hahnmann published another controversial text, entitled "Chronic Diseases".
Shortly afterwards Hahnemann's wife Henriette died. Homeopathy continued to be used with great successes, especially during an epidemic of Asiatic cholera in Europe during 1831-2.

1843

Having remarried Melanie d'Hervilly in the mid-1830s, Hahnmann moved with her to Paris and enjoyed a thriving practice until his death in 1843, at the age of 88.

The Spread of Homeopathy beyond Central Europe

Short descriptions of the progress of homeopathy in specific places including the British Isles and the United States of America follow below.

History of Homeopathy in the British Isles

Dr F.H.F. Quin brings Homeopathy to Britain

1830s-40s

Dr F.H.F. Quin (1799-1878) brought Homeopathy to Britain during the 1830's. This occurred because after receiving his M.D. from Edinburgh University in 1820, Dr. Quin had become a family physician to a member of the English aristocracy and in the course of this employment he travelled extensively in mainland Europe. While abroad he met Hahnemann and spent much time among Hahnemann's closest associates during the 1830s and 1840s. On Hanhemanns's death Quin was appointed Honorary President of the Gallic Homeopathic Society, a post he held until his death.
Back in England, Quin introduced homeopathy to the highest levels of society, resulting in generous clients among the Dukes, Counts, Lords, minor Royals and Baronets. This British aristocratic patronage of homeopathy in the UK extended well into the 1940s and beyond.

Homeopathy practised by Medical Professionals

1840s-50s

Quin concentrated exclusively on introducing homeopathy amongst medically qualified doctors and their predominantly upper-class clientele. He established the British Homeopathic Society (B.H.S.) in 1843, a London hospital in 1850, and the British Journal of Homeopathy (B.J.H.) in 1844. (The B.H.S. became the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1944, while the B.J.H. became the B.H.J. in 1911.) The Faculty is the training and controlling body of medical homeopathy in the UK and also trains many homeopaths from abroad.

late C19th

However, due to the domination of British homeopathy by medically qualified practitioners who served a predominately Aristocratic clientele, homeopathy failed to become established among the lower- and working- classes of the day. Initially this situation was beneficial to the development of homeopathy, but it became disadvantageous from the 1880s onwards.
Largely due to the class distinction, homeopathy tended to thrive mostly in the fashionable towns of the era, (such as Buxton, Leamington, Harrogate, Bath) and also the wealthy coastal resorts (e.g. Eastbourne, Brighton, Bognor Regis) and in London and Southern England in particular. However, there were three exceptions to this pattern - those being Glasgow, Bristol and Liverpool - all of which had large, thriving homeopathic hospitals.

Homeopathy for the lay-person

late C19th

As the influence of the English Aristocracy went into decline so too did homeopathy in Britain (this is especially true of England, at times it fared better in the Glasgow area of Southern Scotland). Consequently, a few homeopathic doctors (such as Dr. J.H.Clarke), concerned for the future of homeopathy, broke away from the British Homeopathic Society and started writing books and teaching the principles of homeopathy to lay-persons.

early-mid C20th

Of Dr Clarke's lay-students, J Ellis Barker (1869-1948) and Noel Puddephatt (1899-c1971), became practitioners who went on to become influential teachers of homeopathy themselves. In this way, a new system of lay homeopathy was established in Britain. Hence, although the number of homeopathic medical doctors went into decline and then stagnation, the lay homeopathic movement became extremely popular during the 1920s and 30s.
Nevertheless, within the confines of the conventional medical system in the UK interest in homeopathy remained low, as did the number of medical doctors training in this field. This situation continued up until the late 1970s. During this time there was much criticism of the British Homeopathic Association (which had been revived in 1902) for failing to promote the benefits of homeopathy to the general public.

late C20th

In 1978 a group of lay practitioners established their own Society of Homeopaths, a Register, College (The London College of Homeopathy), Journal (The Homeopath) and Code of Ethics, inadvertently imitating the medical professionalisation process of the 1850s. This resulted in the rapid expansion of homeopathy in the UK, more Colleges becoming established during the 1980s and 1990s. The success of this is such that the lay movement within homeopathy is now a semi-legitimised profession with its own mode of registration, unified teaching syllabuses, training procedures and self-regulation - on the brink of full legal recognition.
There are therefore two strands of the modern homeopathic movement in the UK. They are the medically qualified, and the lay practitioners.

History of Homeopathy in the United States

Homeopathy arrives in the United States

1825

Dr. Hans Burch Gram (of Dutch background, who had studied medicine in Copenhagen where he had concentrated on homeopathy) returned to the United States and established the first homeopathic practice in the U.S. in New York.

1828

While resident in Pennsylvania Swiss-German medical doctor Dr. Henry Detwiller converted to the 'New School' of homeopathy after studying it for some years. Shortly afterwards Constance Hering also settled in Pennsylvania and, through the efforts of these two German speaking practitioners, use of homeopathy increased among the german-speaking immigrant population in that area.

Homeopathic Training Colleges established in the United States

1835

Detwiller and Hering establish the first homeopathic college in America, located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (However, all tuition was in German and the school was forced to close in 1841.)

1844

The American Institute of Homeopathy was formed, becoming the first national medical organisation in the United States. However, in order to maintain high standards, this institute restricted admission to people who had completed full allopathic medical training.

1848

Hering founded the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which was to remain the centre of homeopathic education in the United States.

The Lay (non-Medical) Homeopathic Movement in the United States

Early-mid C19th

Apart from Homeopathy, two challengers to the orthodox medicine of the day had been steadily increasing in popularity in the United States. They were the Thomsonian System of herbal remedies and the traditional herbalists (the medically-qualified of whom were known as 'botanical practitioners'). In 1845 these two groups joined forces to form the Eclectic Medical Institute. As they had a following of 15-20% of the population, orthodox physicians were concerned by this movement. Similarly, homeopathy gained in popularity across all social classes, causing further concern to the practitioners of allopathic medicine who losing clientele as a result.

Reactions to Homeopathy from the Allopathic Medical Community

1846

The American Medical Association (AMA) was founded. It quickly launched a publicity campaign to discredit other (than allopathic), i.e. alternative forms of medicine and, in 1847, banned its members from consulting with homeopaths. Consequently, communication between allopaths and homeopaths in the United States ceased for the remainder of the C19th. This prevented, for example, homeopaths referring their patients to allopaths in cases where the patient required surgery - obviously to the detriment of both the health of the patient and the commercial interests of the allopathic practitioner.

The Development of the Homeopathy Movement

Mid-late C19th

In contrast to the policy of the AMA at that time, homeopathic practitioners included women and all ethic groups, therefore homeopaths also became associated with the causes of race and gender equality. Homeopathy enjoyed a period of respect and credibility at all levels of society and government and was supported by a network of hospitals and institutions including insurance companies that recognized the benefits of homeopathy.

1880

Divisions between the homeopathic community became so extreme that the International Hahnemannian Association was established, it's members leaving the American Institute of Homeopathy to publicly align themselves with the purist view that Hahnemann's principles should be strictly (rather than liberally) applied.

To be continued ...

For further general information about the History of Homeopathy see Chapter 8 of "The Complete Book of Homeopathy", by Micheal Weiner & Kathleen Goss, Avery Publishing Group, New York, 1989.

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