The history of homeopathy in the Russian Empire
until World War I, as compared with other European countries and the USA: similarities and
by Alexander Kotok, M.D.
On-line version of the Ph.D. thesis improved and enlarged
due to a special grant of the Pierre Schmidt foundation.
1.9 Comparative Aspects
The earliest followers of homeopathy were attracted by Hahnemann since 1812, when he started
delivering lectures at the Leipzig University. From the very beginning it became evident that no
unity amongst homeopaths was possible. Hahnemann and an insignificant part of his followers
insisted that only pure homeopathy should be applied, whilst most new converts, headed by the
future Director of the Leipzig homeopathic hospital, Dr. Moritz
Müller (1784—1849), did not wish to give up allopathy altogether. To avoid the
split, both camps signed on August 2nd, 1833 the document proposed by Hahnemann, which
established the main principles of homeopathy and its application:
- 1. Strict and unqualified adherence to the principle of the Similia similibus and
- 2. Avoidance of all antipathetic methods of treatment [in which symptoms are confronted with
their opposites in order to suppress them, according to §23 of the Organon of Medicine],
wherever it is possible to attain the objective by homeopathic remedies; and therefore the greatest
- 3. Avoidance of all positive remedies [i.e., having a certain effect] and those weakening by
their after-effect, consequently the avoidance of all bleeding, of all evacuation upwards and
downwards, of all remedies causing pain, inflammation or blisters, of burning, of punctures,
- 4. Avoidance of all remedies selected and destined only to stimulate, whose after-effect is
weakening in every case. [...]
By the inclusion of the words "wherever it is possible" and
"greatest possible", the "free" Leipzig members, were enabled to sign the
agreement, which Hahnemann signed first. Moritz Müller [...], in order 'not to be regarded
as the inciter or seducer of others', [...] signed last of all182.
Thus, Germany became the first scene of the struggle between "pure" homeopaths and
those who were stigmatized by Hahnemann as "homeopathic-allopathic mongrels". This
struggle soon crossed the borders of Germany.
Generally speaking, the main concerns of German homeopaths during the period under study were
the following: 1. granting the privilege of dispensing their own homeopathic medicines 2.
establishing chairs of homeopathy at German universities and homeopathic facilities and 3.
employing homeopathic doctors in State medical facilities, achieving equality of rights of
homeopaths and allopaths before the law.
The struggle of homeopaths and their lay supporters for so-called
"Selbstdispensierrecht" (dispensing medicines), against one of the oldest privileges of
the pharmacists was successful. Württemberg (in 1829) and Hessen (in 1833) granted this right
to homeopaths. The struggle in Prussia ended with the authorization given by the King Friedrich Wilhelm IV (in 1843) to homeopaths to dispense their medicines. In
fact, since 1843 German homeopaths have indeed enjoyed this right183.
The problem of the establishment of homeopathic chairs at universities, however, brought no
significant fruits for homeopaths. In 1833 the Landtag (parliament) in Baden discussed this matter,
but nothing resulted from this attempt. In 1839 a similar proposal was forwarded in the Hessen
Landtag, again without success. Later, especially at the turn of the century, lay supporters of
homeopathy brought proposals of founding homeopathic chairs also before the Landtags of Saxony,
Prussia and Württemberg, but until now no homeopathic chair has ever existed in Germany. Some
German homeopaths, however, succeeded to deliver lectures on homeopathy at German universities.
These lectures had little impact and usually were met with the hostility of pro-allopathic academic
The homeopathic hospitals in Germany also proved to be short-lived. For more details see the
chapter "Homeopathic facilities". The lack of unity in the activity of homeopaths and
their suporters and, especially, of finances, soon caused their closure, whilst the attempts of
various homeopathic organizations to get firm State support for homeopathic hospitals were
unsuccessful. For example, in 1899 the Dresden lay homeopathic society "Gesellschaft für
Homöopathie und Gesundheitspflege" turned to the municipality requesting to establish a
homeopathic unit at a newly founded city hospital. The municipality passed this request to the
district physician (Stadtbezirksarzt) who rejected this idea in the sharpest wording. The
Dresden City Council followed his recommendation. Two years later a new petition was submitted, now
signed not by one sole organization but by many homeopathic organizations of the Dresden and
Pulsnitzer districts, whilst every organization attached a list containing from 67 to 165
signatures. Nevertheless, this demand was again rejected185.
Neither were funds, aimed at supporting homeopathy officially, accepted:
Mr. Wiesicke proposed to the Berlin municipality a capital for the establishment
of a homeopathic hospital. The municipality rejected the proposal in order not to encourage the
spread of ignorance186.
In 1881, the Friedrichstadt Medical society proposed to the Central Unit of German medical
societies in Berlin that consultations with homeopaths be forbidden. This proposal was not
Yet the rejection of a ban on consultations had nothing to do with the expulsion from allopathic
societies: homeopaths were indeed expelled everywhere in Germany by their allopathic
Like in other European countries, German homeopaths failed to create their own system of
education and training.
No [...] private training centers for homeopathic physicians succeeded in
establishing an authoritative status. No diplomas were issued; the German institutions proved to be
short-lived. [...]. Unlike the United States none of the German states relied on such private
accrediting associations for the determination of the quality of professional training in
occupations related to health care189.
When analyzing the statistics of German homeopathy during the period under study (see the
chapter "Homeopathic facilities") one should pay attention to the fact that since the
late 1870s, professional homeopathy in Germany sunk in the decline. On the contrary, lay
homeopathy, based upon lay homeopathic societies, developed widely. In fact, the frequent attempts
to discuss in parliament the problem of teaching homeopathy in German universities, based on the
growing influence of homeopathic societies, represented a wide electorate group. Nevertheless,
their influence was not sufficient to establish homeopathic facilities supported by the State.
The appearance of institutionalized homeopathy in Britain was connected with the name of
Dr. Frederick Quin.
Quin was a person of professional determination, wit, social grace, and
homeopathic facilities aristocratic connection. These qualities did much to establish homeopathy
institutionally, and to popularize it among the highest grades of society: indeed, even before Quin
had settled in London, homeopathy had obtained its share of royal patronage - Dr. Stapf, at the
invitation of Queen Adelaide, and Dr. Belluomini, had both practiced, albeit briefly, at
Here is a small anecdote, related to Quin. When Dr. John Ayrton Paris (1785—1856), then
President of the RCP [Royal College of Physicians], noted seeing Quin's name in the list of
candidates to the Athenaeum Club in London, he remarked that they had come to a sorry state if
'quacks and adventurers' were to be proposed as members. Lord Clarence Paget, an officer in
the Guards, visited some days later Paris. Lord Paget requested him either to provide a written
apology for his language concerning Dr. Quin or else justify it with pistols. Paris was forced, not
willing to try Paget's skills in shooting, to sign a retraction of his views, and an
The brief history of the first British homeopathic societies and hospitals is analyzed in the
chapter "Homeopathic facilities".
When realizing that homeopathy was a threat to the regular profession, allopaths decided to take
The campaign [against the homeopathic threat] started in 1851. At its nineteenth
annual meeting, held at Brighton (13-14 August), the PMSA [...] decided to act against irregular
practice. A committee, consisting of Drs Cormack, Tunstall and Ranking, was appointed to consider
what action might be taken. It reported on the 14th with a series of resolutions, all of
which were adopted. The most important of these were, first: that homeopathy was absurd, and that
no reputable medical practitioner could or should have anything to do with it; second: that
homeopaths stood guilty of heaping abuse on the regular profession; third: that therefore no member
of the PMSA should entertain professional contact with homeopaths; fourth: that pure or eclectic
homeopaths, or practitioners who consulted with them, should cease to be members of the
Association; and fifth: 'That a Committee of seven be appointed to frame laws in accordance
with these resolutions, to be submitted to the next annual meeting...'192.
The attack began.
The by-laws proposed by the committee were read before the Association at Oxford
the following year. These require that candidates for admission to the PMSA must give a written
statement that they were not practicing homeopathy, and never intended to do so, and that any
current member suspected of using this system or dealing professionally with those who did so
should, in the absence of a satisfactory defense, be excluded from the Association, provided a
two-thirds majority of those present supported the decision. These measures were also adopted
[...]. At the 1858 meeting in Edinburgh, it was resolved to instruct the General Council of the BMA
[British Medical Association] (which continued the PMSA in 1856) to incorporate these structures
into its established legal framework. [...]. In 1861, at Canterbury, the BMA reaffirmed its general
support for all these policies [...]193.
The following example will suffice to demonstrate the methods British allopaths used in their
struggle against irregulars. The first time cholera attacked Britain in 1831—32, there were
no homeopaths in Britain. It was in 1851 that British homeopaths treated a new epidemic of
The London Homeopathic Hospital [L.H.H.] returns were forwarded to the [General]
Board [of Health] about September of 1854. The various committee reports began to appear early the
following year and the homeopaths at the L.H.H. immediately noticed that their returns were omitted
from the statistics and conclusions of the Treatment Committee's report. Awareness of the
omission occurred sometime between the 2nd of February and the 20th of April
Homeopathic treatment provided reportedly a mortality rate of 16,39%. These statistics were
represented in the letter of Mr. Ralph Buchan, honorary secretary to the L.H.H. lay management committee to Sir Benjamin Hall (1802—1867), President of
the General Board of Health, on the 20th of April.
Nevertheless, after all statistics obtained from various institutions which dealt with
cholera's treatment were published, it proved that data on homeopathic cures were omitted. When
being inquired officially concerning the reasons that caused excluding the statistics of
homeopaths, the above mentioned Dr. Paris, who was then the Treatment Committee Chairman replied,
on the 21st of April, by quoting a resolution passed unanimously by the committee:
[...] That by introducing the returns of homeopathic practitioners, they would not
only compromise the value and utility of their averages of cure, as deduced from the operations of
known remedies, but they would give an unjustifiable sanction to an empirical practice alike
opposed to the maintenance of truth, and to the progress of science195.
Why indeed were the homeopathic statistics were excluded? Squires explains:
To have included the homeopathic returns would have shown how ineffective
the regular therapies were in comparison [...]. The homeopathic results had to be excluded
not only on theoretical grounds but also those of livelihood. Their incorporation in a government
report may also have given them a legitimacy the regulars wanted to avoid. The implication that the
homeopaths used unknown remedies was false because they could all be found in Paris' own book
on therapeutics, 'Pharmacologia'... It was homeopathic theory and practice which was being
stigmatized, not its therapies qua therapies196.
The report on this dirty trick provided by Lord Robert Grosvenor in the
House of Commons on the 14th of May, 1855 led to strong public reactions.
"Even politicians not particularly favorable towards homeopathy were outraged at the
immorality and injustice of the Treatment Committee's actions"197. Finally, the returns were
included in an appendix to the 1855 Cholera Report.
In the second half of the 19th century many local allopathic associations decided to
exclude their homeopathic counterparts and to put a ban on consultations with homeopaths (South
Midland Branch in 1858, the Liverpool Medical Institution in 1859, the Pathological Society in
1881; in Scotland - the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1851, later the Royal College of
Physicians of Edinburgh as well as the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow took similar
One should mention that allopaths from the very beginning evaluated the successes of homeopathic
treatment, while steadily refusing to examine homeopathy:
The regular profession probably preferred not to subject homeopathic treatment to
experimental evaluation because there was already sufficient evidence to suggest that many patients
recovered at least as well, and perhaps better, under homeopathy than with orthodox medication. If
a properly controlled and conducted trial confirmed this result, heroic therapy would need to be
abandoned, and the intellectual credibility of the profession - fragile at the best of times in the
eyes of the public - damaged still further. Indeed, an offer from the Duke of Westminster to
finance trials of homeopathic remedies, in regular hospitals and under regular supervision, was
later refused [by allopathic administration]. Similar offers from the capitalist Henry Edmund
Curney, involving St. George's hospital, and from Mr. Clifton to the Northampton Infirmary,
were also turned down199.
Homeopathy flourished in England since the 1850s till the late 1870s, where we find the first
signs of decline. From the 1880s onwards homeopathy in Britain mainly tried to survive. Most
probably, this decline was at least partly rooted in the overidentification of British homeopathy
with certain social groups:
As a result of its continued domination by the medically qualified and by upper
class patronage [...], British homeopathy could never really shake off its aristocratic gloss, and
thus it never established itself at a popular level amongst the lower classes, which was in marked
contrast to other sects, all of which enjoyed a good deal of mass working-class support. Homeopathy
was always regarded, therefore, as 'the rich's man's therapy', and the exclusive
preserve of the wealthy, privileged, and titled. While this allegiance with the upper classes had
undoubtedly worked to the benefit of UK homeopathy in its early days, later on it became a great
burden, especially when it sank into decline after the 1880's200.
Or, in other words,
[...] Homeopathy had allied itself so closely to aristocrats that its fortunes
shadowed theirs. By welding itself so closely to aristocrats, homeopathy appeared too elitist and
unwilling 'to dirty its hands' with the poor. Even worse, of course their fees were much
too high for the poor to afford anyway. [...]. As soon as aristocrats went into decline, so
homeopathy declined with them, and after 1900 there seemed to be no clear policy being formulated
within homeopathy to deal with this eventuality201.
Furthermore, homeopathy in Britain, like in other countries, proved to be unable to keep itself
clear in the Hahnemannian spirit.
[...] Homeopathic doctors tended to favor the low dilutions, sometimes even using
drops of the undiluted mother tincture. Again, contrary to Hahnemann, homeopathic remedies were
often used in combination each with the other, or with regular treatments (such as enemas) and were
given frequently, instead of at long intervals, as advised in 'Organon'. Moreover, the
theory that potentisation released a 'spiritual' power inhering in medicines, was, in
general, not taken seriously. Few, also, accepted Hahnemann's view of all chronic disease as
the product of either of three inheritable cutaneous miasms [...]202.
Homeopathy became more and more akin to allopathy. This homeopathic-allopathic convergence was
headed and encouraged by Dr. Richard Hughes, whose books were so popular
in Russia (see the section "The typology of Russain
In fact, this loss of the "otherness" led professional homeopathy in Britain to fuse
with allopathy. The history of British homeopathy in the 20th century until the 1980s,
was, in fact, the history of lay homeopathy, which by no means could represent a shadow of a threat
for the regular profession.
Copyright © Alexander Kotok 2001
Mise en page, illustrations Copyright © Sylvain Cazalet 2001