The history of homeopathy in the Russian Empire
until World War I, as compared with other European countries and the USA: similarities and discrepancies

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.

2.6.4 United States

Although the development of homeopathy in the USA appeared to be slightly belated, the extent to which homeopathy developed in America is quite incomparable with other countries.

Imported in the United States in the 1820s, by the 1840s homeopathy boasted practitioners better educated than many regular physicians, had its own institutions and had grown to be a formidable rival to the orthodox profession… The central dogma 'like cures like' posed a fundamental intellectual change to the orthodox conviction that treatment should counterbalance the action of disease275.

Dr Henry DETWILLER (1795—1887)

In the 1830—40s, homeopathy in the USA became institutionalized by the founding of homeopathic educational facilities.

In 1835 Detwiller [1795—1887, a Swiss emigrant who studied homeopathy on his own] and Hering [1800—1880, a German homeopath known as the father of American homeopathy] established the Nordamerikanische Academie der Homoeopathische Heilkunst in Allentown, Pennsylvannia. All instructions were in German and, partly because of that fact, the Academy was compelled to close in 1841. In 1848 Hering succeeded in obtaining a charter for the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia; this was to remain throughout the century the center of homeopathic learning in the United States and, in the fact, the whole world276.

Allentown Homoeopathic Academy

Apart from this, the American Institute of Homeopathy, the main authoritative body of homeopathic practitioners in the USA, was established in 1844 "in response to the lack of national medical standards"277.

Though not aiming at a detailed analysis of the reasons that led to the flourishing of homeopathy in America in the 19th century, I have first to point out that American homeopaths succeeded to create their own system of education and postgraduate training. This became possible due to a relatively insignificant role (in comparison to other European countries, including Russia) played by the State legislative system in the process of licensing medical practitioners in America278. The possibility to found a sectarian system of medical education enables, in my opinion, the explanation of many successes of American homeopathy.

By 1898, there were 20 homeopathic colleges, 66 general and 74 special homeopathic hospitals, 57 homeopathic pharmacies, 9 national homeopathic societies, 33 state societies, 85 local societies and 39 other homeopathically oriented societies279.

The number of homeopathic physicians in 1902 was evaluated by the President of the AIH as 15,000280 .

Not having detailed statistics regarding the number of homeopathic periodicals which were issued in the USA during the period under study, I suppose their number to have been doubtless much greater than that in the European countries. So, it is known that between 1838 and 1878, 53 homeopathic periodicals appeared; they provided 214 volumes. Fourty-three periodicals closed during the same period. Twenty-two periodicals did not go beyond volume 1, whilst 8 did not complete volume 1. In 1879, there were only 9 homeopathic periodicals left281. Nevertheless, the process of opening and closing homeopathic periodicals continued also later on, being especially active in the 1890s, when the number of the newly published American journals was threefold greater than that in Europe in whole. According to Dinges, there were some 30 homeopathic periodicals in 1900, additionally to the main American homeopathic journal, "Transactions of the American Institute of Homeopathy" which had been published since 1846282.

As to the number of homeopathic colleges, it was at its peak in 1900: 22. Since then, we see a constant decreasing: 1913 — 10, 1919 — 5, 1923 — 2; by 1940 only the Hahnemann Medical College of Pennsylvania, remained283. In 1949, it bowed to the pressure of the medical establishment and stopped teaching homeopathy. This was the last accord of the "old" 19th century rooted American homeopathy.

2.7 Summary

When speaking of the main homeopathic facilities, one may note that even in its highest point (the late 1890s) homeopathy in Russia was hardly comparable with the situation in such European countries as Britain and Germany, let alone the USA. I suppose that around the borderline of the centuries homeopathy in Russia was at a level similar to that of France, although homeopathy in France had been in decline since the 1870—1880s.

While trying to explain the difficulties of the spread of homeopathy in Europe in general and in Russia in particular, Dr. Soliansky wrote in his article "Why homeopathy has spread so slowly in Russia" published in 1887, that

The fight against homeopathy became impossible in the New World as soon as the movement became massively supported, whilst the legislative structures, as they were, could not resist that. On the contrary, in the Old World the pro-homeopathic movement relied on private persons, which were unable to press the government...284

In fact, this was true. Although high-ranking "private persons", like Lord Grosvenor in England or Admiral Nicholas Mordvinov in Russia, were able to protect homeopathy from the direct threats caused by the initiatives of allopaths, they obviously could neither create a wide public movement for further development of homeopathy, nor force universities to introduce homeopathy into their curriculum285.

The number of homeopathic societies in Russia was rather insufficient, at the level of Britain and France. Many of those existing did not provide any reports regarding their activities and, most probably, virtually existed exclusively on the paper (Semipalatinsk, Ekaterinoslav, Yalta, Feodosiia, etc.). Only one Russian homeopathic society, namely the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic physicians, appeared to be a professional organization. I suppose that its structure was adopted from the British Homeopathic Society founded by Dr. Quin (see above). Nevertheless, its financial weakness did not allow the physicians' society to maintain its own hospital. On the contrary, its lay counterpart, St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy, managed a homeopathic hospital due to successful financial support, but the number of doctors (8 at the peak) was extremely small even for a modest Russian medical society286.

Being considerably (twofold) behind Germany and Britain in the number of homeopathic physicians, Russian homeopaths and their lay supporters failed also to create strong lay homeopathic societies like was the case in Germany. Also, the Russian homeopathic press did not seem to have had a firm ground. Some periodicals were short-lived, whilst others, because of financial difficulties, pretty often had to unite monthly issues in volumes comprised of 2-3 editions. All these periodicals discontinued entirely with WWI.

Thus, among other European countries chosen for comparison, the Russian Empire shared the last place with France by the temporary borderline of my study.

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Copyright © Alexander Kotok 2001
Mise en page, illustrations Copyright © Sylvain Cazalet 2001