Pride and prejudice

In a time before the microscope and the more powerful electron microscope were invented, there were people who employed logic to deduce the presence of micro organisms that were in a mysterious way associated with and responsible for infectious diseases. Men who, ahead of their time with ideas like these, were considered to be talking nonsense, and regarded with contempt by the established medical community of the day.

One of these men was the German physician and chemist, and the founder of homoeopathic medicine, Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). He wrote many books and articles on the subject of health. Among them was a booklet titled, ‘The mode and propagation of cholera’, in which he wrote of  ‘….swarms of infinitely small invisible living organisms, which are so murderously hostile to human life, and which most probably form the infectious matter of cholera.’ The pioneer microbiologist Robert Koch, who identified the cholera bacterium, was born in 1843, the year that Dr Hahnemann died.

Dr Hahnemann was instrumental in producing cures for infectious diseases like scarlet fever and cholera. Circa 1831-1832 a cholera epidemic swept across Europe from East to West. Dr Hahnemann's remedies saved the lives of thousands of people in an age before intravenous re-hydration or inoculation. He also wrote about the importance of the first line of defence against disease, vis: town planning, sanitation, hygiene, isolation and disinfection in epidemics. The introduction of adequate sanitation in Victorian England stopped cholera in its tracks.
So why did the established orthodoxy of his day not adopt his discovery? The simple answer is that it was too prejudiced. He had unorthodox methods of producing and testing medicines, case taking, and prescribing. The medical men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries insisted on bloodletting, purging, and prescribing mixtures of dangerous drugs. In their ignorance and arrogance, they would not consider Dr Hahnemann’s discovery, despite the impressive results he achieved.  His passionate delivery and open criticism of the methods in use at that time did nothing to enhance his popularity.

What they rejected was the homoeopathic way of treating sick people, a method of cure effective in acute and epidemic diseases, and in chronic illness too. It was hugely successful in the 1918 influenza pandemic, with a mortality rate of 1.5% of people treated, compared with the devastating figures of the orthodox school of the day.

Homoeopathy is still misunderstood because people are loathe to think about health and sickness in terms of energy. While massive profit is to be made in pharmaceuticals it is unlikely that unprejudiced research into these matters will be undertaken. Over the past two centuries homoeopathy has continued, despite its detractors, to benefit people all over the world. If current day science chooses to consider entering such 'unscientific' realms, it will have a debt of gratitude to homoeopathy for keeping a door open to a wider perception of health and sickness.