History of AIH - Our Heritage - Our Future

 

Established April 10, 1844, the year after the death of homeopathy's German-born founder, Dr. C. F. Samuel Hahnemann, the AIH is the oldest, extant, national professional medical organization in the United States. The Institute has survived the vicissitudes of fortune attendant upon homeopathy and, indeed, upon the whole field of alternative medicine in the United States of America, to find itself alive in a time when the milieu is more welcoming to complementary medicine, in general, and to homeopathy, in particular. The American Institute of Homeopathy, its Board of Trustees, and its membership look toward a bright future for themselves and for the public whom they serve as they dedicate themselves to their mission statement, "Advancing Health Care through Homeotherapeutics."

THE BEGINNING OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF HOMEOPATHY
By William E. Kirtsos

”The best thing which we derive from history is the enthusiasm that it raises in us.”  -  Goethe

To appreciate the origin and the development of the American Institute of Homeopathy, it is important to know something of the influences behind it. The history of Homeopathic medicine in the United States, and more specifically the beginning of the American Institute of Homeopathy, at least, is important to the degree it has influenced the present.  And, by doing so, it may also shape the future.

This is a historical compilation of the origins of the American Institute of Homeopathy. It is important to note and identify some of the key people responsible for the institution’s conception.

HANS BIRCH GRAM

Homeopathy was first introduced in the United States by Hans Birch Gram, who was born in Boston, MA of Danish extraction.  After Gram’s mother’s death he went to Copenhagen and later began the study of medicine.  Following receipt of the degree, Gram fully tested the method of Hahnemann and, upon his return to the United States, he settled in New York City and set up practice.

In 1825, shortly after returning to the United States, Gram published the first work in America on Homeopathy.  This was in the form of a letter, and was actually a translation of Hahnemann’s “Spirit of Homoeopathy.”  This work, of which only a few copies still exist, was gratuitously distributed.  It was, however, difficult to understand because of the translation, and therefore, it was poorly received by Gram’s allopathic colleagues.

However, Gram’s importance would be found in the converts he brought to the new system.  This was assisted by the fact that Gram was a “Freemason,” and that several of his first converts were also Masons.

Some of these early Homoeopaths were Drs.  Folger, Wilsey, A.G. Hull, F. Vanderburg, O. Stearns, W. Channing, J. Curtis and John F. Gray.  Many of these and other early Homoeopathic physicians were converts from allopathic medicine.  They received their medical education from some of the best schools of the day – Yale, Rutgers, Columbia, etc.  Also, many of these physicians received their education through a system of apprenticeship until medical schools were to assume a major role in education.  These apprenticeships usually covered a period of three years and were regulated by local medical societies.

Medical societies played an important role for both the professional and economic growth of physicians.  Societies also took on regulatory such as licensing physicians. Many of these early converts to Homoeopathy were expelled from their allopathic societies, or they decided to leave and form separate Homoeopathic societies. By the early 1840’s, Gram influence had helped to spread Homoeopathy to urban centers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

DETWILLER AND HERING

During this period, it should be noted that Drs. Henry Detwiller and Constantine Hering, known as the “Father of American Homoeopathy,” established the Allentown Academy in Pennsylvania.  This academy, which began formal instruction on November 1, 1836, was the first Homoeopathic school.  Instruction and education were taught in German only.

The graduates of this institution initially spread the new doctrine primarily to German immigrants, both East and West.  These physicians experienced similar allopathic society expulsion and attacks as Homoeopathic medicine became more widely known.

By 1843, the Homoeopathic movement had grown considerably from the early days of Gram. Hering himself noted that a number of early converts to Homoeopathy came as a result of the cholera epidemics of the 1830’s and 1840’s.

Homoeopathic physicians were some of the best educationed practitioners of the day.  Their practices, especially in the urban areas of the North, were quite impressive.  Societies had been formed in several states.  English and German literature, including several journals, had become increasingly more available.  Dispensaries and clinics were opening.  But, something more was needed.

In July, 1843, the New York Homoeopathic Physicians’ Society, that was formed nine years earlier, and experienced this growth and interest in Homoeopathy as much as any professional group.  However, they had two basic concerns: First, the need to improve upon and disseminate a broader knowledge of the Materia Medica to its members; and second, to create a governing body that would be able to politically distance themselves from lay, or unqualified, practitioners. Also, at this time, fate would have it that another important event was happening.

HAHNEMANN IS DEAD!

On July 2, 1843, in the City of Paris, Dr. G.H.G. Jahr was summoned by Madame Hahnemann to the bedside of the failing Dr. Hahnemann.  Upon arriving, Jahr found Hahnemann already at his end. Jahr was later to notify the Homoeopathic community in a death notice written by him, which can be found in Volume 24 of the Journal Allgemeine Homoeopathische Zeitung, beginning with the Statement, “Hahnemann is Dead!”

The news of Hahnemann’s death reached other parts of Europe, England and the United States.  In his biography of Hahnemann, T.L. Bradford, the Homoeopathic historian from Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, mentioned that the “New York Homoeopathic Physicians Society, immediately after the news of Hahnemann’s death had been received, call a special meeting,” and that Dr. John Gray was “selected to pronounce, at a future occasion, a eulogy upon the illustrious man.”

How the death of the founder of the Homoeopathic movement may have influenced the need to organize nationally is not clearly documented. The New York Homeopathic Physicians’ Medical Society decided to call a general convention of the practitioners of Homoeopathy throughout the united States in order to adopt a plan by which the art of Homoeopathy should be widely and systematically cultivated.  Possibly no large body of learned men ever undertook a more apparently hopeless task than those who braced themselves as a resisting army against the really honest objections, or the contemptuous injustice, which was ready to meet their cause at every turn. Their watchword, “Similia Similibus Curentur,” yet used as a jest among the old school fraternity, was mistranslated, misquoted, purposely misunderstood, and the most erudite and dignified supporter of the “New School” practice could sometimes deem himself fortunate were he not openly accused of quackery.

Previous to 1843, several local Homoeopathic societies had been formed in various cities, and while each in its own way accomplished much good work, there arose a demand for a general union of all the homoeopathic forces in a national organization for the more ample protection of legitimate Homoeopathy and the better promulgation of its doctrines.  To this end, the New York Homoeopathic Physicians’ Society, at its meeting in July, 1843, appointed a committee to invite the Homoeopathic physicians of the United States to meet in convention in the city of New York on the next anniversary of Hahnemann’s birth.

On the 89th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, April 10. 1844, the convention met at the “Lyceum of Natural History” in the city of New York. The following will offer a brief look at what occurred during the first three sessions of the American Institute of Homoeopathy – April, 1844 through May, 1846, (the beginnings of the institution).

Although some of this information is still available, it can be found mostly in scare out-of-print books.  Needless to say, these books are not easily accessible. Unfortunately, no manuscripts or diary of these earliest sessions  of the A.I.H. still exists.  Due to the scarcity of these sources, and for the importance of accuracy, most of the following material will be presented in its originally published form.

Primary sources used for this early history of the A.I.H. can be found in Transaction of the A.I.H., Volume !, 1846 and Transactions of the Homoeopathic Convention of 1876, Volume II.  Additionally, the writing, of T.L. Bradford, Bushrod James, King, Coulter, Kaufman, and Nichols were consulted.

FIRST NATIONAL CONVENTION

Constantine Hering, M.D., of Philadelphia, was chosen president of the convention.  Joseph F. Flagg, M.D. of Boston, and William Channing, M.D. of New York were its vice presidents, and Henry G. Dunnell, M.D. of New York was its secretary.

At that convention, the A.I.H. was established with stated purposes.  A major concern troubling the Homoeopathic profession was an increasing loss of control by local societies to govern and set standards for its practitioners.  Also, the overall state of public information , respecting the principles and practice of Homoeopathy, was becoming so defective that it was easy for mere pretenders to pass themselves off as qualified practitioners.  These “pretenders” to the art of Homoeopathy took advantage of the increasing popularity of homoeopathy and the concern was that they would discredit the Homoeopathic profession with their malpractice.

With a promptitude which denoted the earnest purpose which actuated the enterprise, the “American Institute of Homoeopathy” was created and named, and a preamble and resolutions were quickly framed and adopted.  The preamble and resolutions were in the following words:

Whereas, a majority of the allopathic physicians continue to deride and oppose the contributions to the materia medica that have been made by the homoeopathic school, and, whereas, the state of the material medica in both schools is such as to imperatively demand a more satisfactory arrangement and greater purity of observation, which can only be obtained by associate action on the part of those who seek diligently for the truth alone; and inasmuch as the state of the public information respecting the principles and practice of Homoeopathy is so defective as to make it easy for mere pretenders to this very difficult branch of the healing art, to acquire credit as proficients in the same, therefore, be it resolved, that it is deemed expedient to establish a society, entitled the ‘American Institute of Homoeopathy,’ and the following are declared to be the essential purposes of said society:

First.  The reformation and augmentation of the Materia Medica.

Second.  The restraining of physicians from pretending to be competent to practice Homoeopathy, who have not studied it in a careful and skillful manner.

The society being thus duly formed, Dr. John F. Gray, of New York, was elected General Secretary of the Institute, and Dr. S.R. Kirby, of New York, was elected Treasurer.

FIRST MEETING OF THE A.I.H.

The convention adjourned to organize the first session of the Institute, which was called by its General Secretary elect on this same evening, April 10, 1844, and thus quickly and decidedly was laid the cornerstone of the “American Institute of Homoeopathy.”

Dr. J.F. Flagg, Boston, had the honor of being chosen unanimously as Chairman for the session, and the Institute started on the work for which it had been organized by appointing a Corresponding Committee to serve until the meeting of the society in 1845.

At this session a Bureau for the Augmentation and Improvement of the Materia Medica, which was named the Central Bureau, consisting of Drs. Constantine Hering, Jacob Jeanes, Charles Neidhard and Walter Williamson, of Philadelphia, and Dr. George, of Yellow Springs, Pa.  Four of these gentlemen served faithfully upon this bureau for several years, Dr. Lingen giving place to Dr. James Kitchen, of Philadelphia, in 1845.

On the second day, April 11, 1844, Dr. Josiah F. Flagg presided, and the first paper was offered to the society by Dr. A.G. Hull, entitled “Homoeopathy and Allopathy contrasted, and a few of the causes which prevent the advance of true medical science, illustrated by cases in practice.” By George W. Cook, M.D., of Hudson, N.Y.

Dr. W. Williamson, of Philadelphia, presented a paper on Podophyllum peltatum, a remedy that he was proving.  This was an entirely new contribution to pure pathogenesis and it was ordered to be read by the secretary and referred to the Central Bureau – the name adopted for the bureau appointed for the augmentation and improvement of the Materia Medica.

CENTRAL SESSION

Perhaps no members of the new society started more zealously in their undertaking than the Central Bureau. Each member felt the importance of the trust imposed upon him and used his full ability.  The Bureau promptly prepared and issued circulars to all new school practitioners asking for their cooperation in the augmentation and improvement in the Materia Medica.  They particularly desired information upon three subjects and issued inquiries in the following sentences:

First.  The effects you have observed from remedies not mentioned in ‘Jahr’s Manual,’ whether in health or disease; stating the precise localities of the symptoms, the times of the day at which they occurred, with all attending circumstances.

Second.  New symptoms, either pathogenetic or curative, which you may have observed from the remedies.  In ‘Jahr’s Manual’ which are clearly ascribable to those remedies, with the particulars of each case.

Third.  The symptoms which you have seen confirmed most frequently in your practice; also any remarkable coincidences in allopathy or popular practice and specifically cases of poisoning which may have come under your observation.

In the circular, three new remedies were proposed for trails, Oxalic acid, Podophyllum peltatum, and Kalmia latifolia, with an offer to furnish all of them to any one who desired to test them.
The first meeting of the Institute then adjourned, being fully organized and having appointed its officers for the ensuing year.

SECOND SESSION

The second session of the Institute met on Wednesday, May 14, 1845, in the city of New York.  Dr. Jacob Jeanes, of Philadelphia, was elected President; Dr. Edward Bayard, of New York, General Secretary, and Dr. R.A. Snow, of New York, Provisional Secretary.  Dr. S.R. Kirby was re-elected Treasurer.  The meeting had been opened by Dr. John F. Gray, General Secretary, who had appointed Drs. Benjamin F. Joslin and A. Howard Okie tellers of the election. Dr. Gray then read the minutes of the Convention, and also of the first session of the Institute, held in April, in 1844, which were approved.

Thus far, the society had been managed without a constitution and by-laws; the necessity for them led to the appointment of a committee, consisting of Drs. J.F. Gary and B.F. Joslin of New York, Dr. Eliphalet Clark of Portland, MA, Dr. Walter Williamson of Philadelphia, and Dr. A.H. Okie of Providence, RI, to whom was entrusted the framing and compiling of a suitable constitution and by-laws.

Drs. C. Neidhard, John F. Gray, and J.F. Flagg were appointed a committee to ascertain the best manner of making public the doings of the Institute, and the reports of the Central Bureau. Dr. Samuel R. Dubs proposed that a committee of three should be appointed to consider the subject of Posology.  Drs. J.A.McVickar, P.P. Wells, and J.M. Quinn were chosen.

At this meeting, the report of the Central Bureau was presented and proved satisfactory. It should be noted that the A.I.H. had a strong interest to communicate with physicians outside the United States.  Thus, Dr. Constantine Hering was elected the first delegate of the “American Institute of Homoeopathy,” to the General Congress of Homoeopathists, held at Magdeburg, on August 10, 1845.

Several communications were ready by Dr. Gray, the former Secretary, from Dr. J.C. Boardman, of Trenton, NJ; Dr. J Merrill, of Portland, MA; Dr. J.H. Pulte, of Cincinnati, OH; Dr. George Lingen, of Yellow Springs, PA; Dr. Adolphus Lippe, of Carlisle, PA, and Dr. W. Wesselhoeft, of Boston, MA,  all believers in Homoeopathy and friends of the Institute, the members of which fully appreciated their interest in the cause.

At the second meeting of the session, held on Wednesday, May 14, 1845, Drs. E. Bayard, John F. Gray, and George W. Cook were appointed a committee to engross and superintend the publication of the first volume of the transactions of the Institute, with the aid of the Central Bureau.

The committee appointed to nominate a Board of Censors, reported in favor of reappointing the members of the several boards of the last session to constitute one board, and that any three censors may constitute a board for the examination of candidates, and a recommendation of a majority of said board shall render a candidate eligible to membership in this Institute.  This plan was adopted.

Thursday morning, May 15, 1845, the Institute met, and the Secretary was instructed to obtain a suitable seal for the Institute.  The publishing committee was requested to prepare a report of the proceedings of the society, have it published in several newspapers and copies distributed to all the members.  At this meeting also a resolution was passed:  Not to admit as a member of this Institute any person who has not pursued a regular course of medical studies according to the requirements of existing medical institutions of our country, and, in addition thereto, sustained an examination before the censors of this Institute, in the theory and practice of Homoeopathy.
The session was adjourned to meet in Philadelphia on the second Wednesday in May, 1846.

THIRD SESSION

On Wednesday, May 13, 1846, the American Institute of Homoeopathy began its third annual session in Philadelphia and elected Drs., S.R. Kirby, of New York, President; Edward Bayard of New York, General Secretary, and R.A. Snow, of New York Provisional Secretary.  The roll was called, and all those whose names were not read were requested to register, which made the list of members.

In all, one hundred and forty-four members, who constituted the “American Institute of Homeopathy,” in 1846, attended its first meeting for that year.  The committee selected to procure a seal for the society then presented one which was accepted.

The first volume of the Transactions was published by C.L. Rademacher, of Philadelphia, PA and Otis Clap, Boston, MA.  In this first volume, the provings and symptoms of the remedies, reported by the Central Bureau, occupy two hundred and forty pages.

Dr. William P. Esrey prepared, in addition, a valuable repertorium of forty-four pages giving the different symptoms and the remedies at the end of the symptom which had produced the same in the provings, which was reported by the Bureau and thankfully received and published.

It was issued from the press of Merrihew & Thompson, Philadelphia, PA.  It was copyrighted by C.L. Rademacher in 1846 in the office of the clerk of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  During the meeting, copy was presented to the society by Mr. C.L. Rademacher, its Philadelphia publisher.

Drs. Williamson, Kirby, Bayard, Clark and Wild, who were appointed to frame a Constitution and By-Laws, made their report at the meeting on Wednesday evening, May 13. 1846, when each article and section composing it was fully discussed and afterward adopted. ( Bylaws)

Drs. Jeanes, Neidhard and Dubs were appointed a committee to prepare an address to the Homoeopathic physicians throughout the country, which they did, exhorting members to join more earnestly in the work, recommending the formation and support of Local Bureaus, and asking that their reports should be so plainly and elaborately made as to lighten the arduous duties of the Central Bureau as much as possible.  They spoke very encouragingly of the work of the past, but looked forward to a far greater improvement in the future, praising the interest which very many had taken in the object of the association.

A motion was made and carried to appoint a committee of three to report an acceptable form of certificate, and Drs. Wild, Williamson and Manchester were names.  After due deliberation, this committee reported the following form of Certificate of Membership, which was adopted:

Certificate of Membership

This is to certify that ________________________ having given the Committee of Elections satisfactory evidence of his competency, and having been by them reported qualified, according to the By-Laws, w as thereupon duly elected and declared a member of the American Institute of Homoeopathy.  Signed by the General Secretary.

Drs. Walter Williamson, of Philadelphia, F.R. McManus, of Baltimore, J.M. Quinn, of New York, Eliphalet Clark of Portland, MA, and Samuel Gregg, of Boston, were announced as the Committee on Elections by the Chairman, S.R. Kirby, MD.

Drs. E. Bayard, George W. Cook and Charles J.  Hempel were appointed to superintend the printing of the certificates of membership, and the secretary was ordered to issue certificates of membership to members any time during the year on the payment of one dollar.  (Two dollars for new members)

Drs. Hering, Jeanes, Neidhard, Williamson and Kitchen, all of Philadelphia, were appointed to compose the Central Bureau.

Dr. Edward Bayard was appointed by the Chairman to deliver an address on the first day of the next annual session of the Institute.

The Institute, thanking its officers for the faithful discharge of their duties, and the members in Philadelphia for their courtesy and enjoyable entertainment, adjourned to meet in Boston on the second Wednesday in June. 1847.

CONCLUSION

The American Institute of Homoeopathy, in its first three years, had established itself not only as the first national professional medical society, but as an organization that was becoming more integrated into the fabric of American medicine.

The A.I.H. has continued to meet yearly in different locations, and it promoted the formation of local bureaus. The A.I.H. also became an international organization, and voted as early as its fourth session in 1847, to grant membership to a Canadian physician.

Within the next 30 to 40 years, particularly through the strength of the A.I.H., Homoeopathy would reach its greatest medical political influence. At this point, several thousand physicians had become members of the A.I.H., and many received handsome fees for their services.

Women also played a major role in the growth of Homoeopathy in America.  Mothers were favorably impressed by its treatment of childhood illness and disease.  Many homes employed Homoeopaths to treat their children while the adults remained under allopathic care.

The A.I.H. voted in its 22nd session in 1869 to admit women physicians to membership.  Several allopathic societies, such as the Washington, D.C. Medical Society, did not accept its first woman member until 1888.

The importance that the A.I.H. placed on medical education was seen in its promotion of medical schools and hospitals.  The Homoeopathic profession founded some of the first teaching hospitals with Hahnemann in Philadelphia, and the New York Homoeopathic Medical College in New York City.

Opposition to the direction and philosophy of the A.I.H. by some of its most respected members had existed almost from the onset of the organization.  A major concern was that many members had been moving toward uniting the homoeopathic and allopathic schools.  In 1880, a major split was to occur when these highly regarded physicians formed a separate organization, the International Hahnemannian Association.  Many of these physicians still remained affiliated with the A.I.H.

Under the auspices of the A.I.H. a monument was erected in Washington, D.C., and dedicated on June 21, 1900 in the presence of the President of the United States, William McKinley.  Written on the monument of the founder of Homoeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, is the following:

Christian Frederick Samuel Hahnemann
Doctor in Medicine
Hofrath
Leader of the Great Medical Reformation
of the
Nineteenth Century,
Founder of the
Homoeopathic School

The monument to Samuel Hahnemann ( Hahnemann Monument ) was the first ever dedicated to a physician in Washington, D.C.

The American Institute of Homoeopathy, through its 150 years as a medical society, has truly played an integral role in American medical history.  It is unfortunate that very little is really known about this organization today.  In reflecting upon its overall history, it is obvious that only a very small portion has been covered here.  It is hoped that by looking at the first three years of the organization’s existence, from 1844 to 1846, we have a better historical perspective of the origins of this institution.

Important to remember is the A.I.H. was founded in 1844 to promote and develop a vehicle for pharmaceutical information for physicians who took on the practice of Homoeopathic medicine.

This piece was originally published in: "Anthology 150 Years of the American Institute of Homeopathy", by Forrest J. Murphy, M.D; Jacquelyn J. Wilson, M.D (Editor), Formur Incorporated Publishers (1994).