History of Medicine

Who was Dr. John Forbes?

Iman Navab
Written by Iman Navab

Homeopath Iman Navab discusses Dr. John Forbes and Forbes’ opinions of homeopathy.

John Forbes was an eminent doctor and the trusted physician to the British royal family, well-known for his knowledge, medical work and research.

John Forbes

John Forbes was born on December 17th , 1787 at Cuttlebrae, near Cullen, in Scotland. In February of 1806 he obtained his medical degree from the College of Surgeons. Between the years 1817 and 1822 he familiarized himself with the stethoscope, newly invented by the French physician Dr. René Laennec (1781–1826); Forbes translated Laennec’s teachings on stethoscopes:De L’Auscultation Médiate (1819) translated from French into English in four editions.

In 1836 Dr. Forbes started a new publication that was called the British and Foreign Medical Review. The Medical Review was read widely in Europe and America, and helped to promote modern methods of treatment. Due to the superior quality of medical information in this journal, the Medical Review was well regarded, with widespread circulation.

In 1840 Dr. Forbeswas appointed as the physician to Queen Victoria, and then as the physician to Prince Albert, and in 1841 he was appointed as a member of the royal household.

For his remarkable medical knowledge Forbes then received other tributes including Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians, and honorary Fellowship of the Imperial Society of Physicians in Vienna. He also received the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Lawby the University of Oxford, and he was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1853.

Some of his major publications are:

  1. A treatise on diseases of the chest in which items are described according to their anatomical characters. London, 1821.

  1. Original Cases with dissections and observations illustrating the use of the stethoscope and percussion in the diagnosis of diseases of the chest. London, 1824.

  1. A manual of select medical bibliography. London, 1835.

  1. Sketch of the Medical Topography in Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, volume 2, pp. 32–139 and volume 4, pp. 152–261; 1834–1836.

  1. The Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine. London, 1832-1835.

  1. Of Nature and Art in the Cure of Disease. London, 1857.

As one can notice, Sir John Forbes was a man of intelligence who was in pursuance of the advancement of medical science. Throughout his medical career he stressed that the practice of medicine should combine science with art.

In 1846, as Editor of the British & Foreign Medical Review, the honorary Dr. Forbes wrote an article in his journal about Dr. Hahnemann and Homeopathy. He wrote: “No careful observer or candid reader of Hahnemann’s writings can hesitate for a moment to admit that he was a very extraordinary man, whose name will descend to posterity as the exclusive excogitator and founder of an original system of medicine, as ingenious as many that preceded it, and destined to be the remote, if not the immediate cause of more important fundamental changes in the practice of the healing art, than have resulted from any promulgated, since the days of Galen himself. Hahnemann was undoubtedly, a man of genius and a scholar, a man of undaunted energy. In the history of Medicine his name will appear in the same list with those of the greatest system; surpassed by few in the originality and ingenuity of his views, superior to most in having substantiated and carried out his doctrine into actual and most extensive practice.”

Dr. Forbes also stated that the natural causes of the opposition to homeopathy, had up to that day prevented common justice being done to the new system, to Hahnemann and to his successors. Whoever examines the homoeopathic doctrine as announced and expounded in the original writings of Hahnemann and many of his followers, must admit, not only that the system is an ingenious one, but that it professes to be based upon a most formidable array of facts and experiments, and that these are woven into a complete code of doctrine with singular dexterity and much apparent fairness.

This is one among many endorsements that Dr. Hahnemann and the science of homeopathy have received throughout the history of medicine from intelligent, independent, freethinkers that dismiss nothing BUT a thing without God.

As Dr. Hahnemann said it best: Pure human understanding, is a voice of God.

Thanks for reading!

Bibliography:

Biography of John Forbes at the James Lind Library

Letter to Thomas Bond, by Dr. J. Schmidt, 1851.

Homoeopathy, allopathy and “young physic”. British and Foreign Medical Review, p. 225–265; by J. Forbes, 1846.

Image source: John Partridge (1789 – 1872).

About the author

Iman Navab

Iman Navab

Iman Navab is a certified classical Homeopath and doctor of alternative medicine from Canada. He is the President of the Applied Research in Homeopathy Foundation of Canada (www.ARHFC.ca). He is the author of 'Miasma of Cancer', and is a historian of Homeopathy. Iman teaches History and Philosophy of Homeopathy at the Canadian College of Holistic Health. Navab gives lectures and seminars to raise awareness about the rich history of Homeopathy.

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