Sue Young is a homeopath who has also studied psychology, archeology and history. Over the years she has passionately pieced together over 2000 fascinating biographies of homeopaths, which now appear on her website. http://sueyounghistories.com/ Today she shares her experiences with us.
AS: What sparked your interest in the history of homeopathy?
SY: I had to defend myself from a web attack by Ben Goldacre’s minions who overran my site with an offensive troll campaign… several hundreds of nasty comments every day for weeks! So how to ‘delouse’ my site became important… I firstly posted 10-15 positive research articles a day on my Avilian site – a diet they could not stand! Eventually, I combined these into a single blog post http://avilian.co.uk/2008/08/25/scientific-research-and-homeopathy-overview/ though this work soon became superceded by other, cleverer homeopaths, so I turned my attention to the history of homeopathy, something else I knew skeptics would not/could not digest! Dear Dana Ullman had just published his book The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. (North Atlantic Books, 2007), and I became fascinated! Why? How? What were the stories of these astonishing people? So I began to take one name at a time and research them, I did a few hundred American homeopaths until I realised there were potentially 20-30,000 of them! The Americans are big enough and bright enough to write their own histories, so I turned my attention to Europe and did a few hundred more biographies… and I discovered many 1000s of these! However, it was difficult for me as I only speak and read English, but by this time other researchers were getting interested who could speak and read European languages, so I turned my attention to Britain… and the rest is history!
AS: How many biographies have you done so far?
SY: I have done about 2000 biographies and have a list of another 1000 or so British homeopaths to do. But by researching these, I am sure I will scare out loads more! Far more than we ever guessed, huh? I must add at this point, that Dana Ullman has been a wonderful and marvelous supporter of my work from the outset and I have much to thank him for. Francis Treuherz and Peter Morrell have also been stupendous and I am much indebted to them. There are also many others who have helped me tremendously, and they know who they are. It is very important that we give credit to each other, and knit our community together tightly, as indeed our wonderful history shows our ancestors did so beautifully!
AS: Do you see some ways in which homeopaths from the 19th and early 20th centuries were different from current homoeopaths?
SY: They stood together more than we do. They did not argue amongst one another in such a way that they forgot to stand together – see The Association for the Protection of Homeopathic Practitioners and Students founded in 1851: http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/10/17/british-homeopathic-associations-and-journals/ but then the attacks and the storms against homeopathy were far, far stronger than the ones we are facing now, and we are rising to the challenge of our era together. The fact it has taken us longer is, I think, a reflection of the fact they are not killing us – and they DID IN THE PAST! (cop a load of Andrew Comstock who boasted of the fact he had caused 16 alternative practitioners to commit suicide! http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/02/01/sarah-blakesley-chase-and-homeopathy/
It’s a pressure cooker effect and it is of immense interest to see how our ancestors fought for homeopathy and for us! They were far better educated that’s for sure. They were definitely more brave, as becoming a homeopath cost many of them everything they had and they paid it willingly – for us! http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2009/04/04/charles-thomas-pearce-1815-1883/ He lost everything in the end and his wife died alone in an asylum. His case is in no way unique. This man was also simply astonishing http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/02/02/emile-herman-grubbe-and-homeopathy/
Emile Herman Grubbe (1875-1960) (pronounced Grew-bay) was a homeopathic physician, who in 1896 became the first person to use to use radiation treatment on a cancer patient. Grubbe was also the first to use lead as protection against x rays. He is the originator of the Memorial Award of the Chicago Radioloical Society. He had horrible disfigurement from his own experimentation (he eventually had to give up lecturing after his body was made ‘a testing laboratory’ for the poorly understood effects of x-ray). Grubbe died in 1960 as the result of multiple squamous carcinomas with metastasis.
AS: Do you have a sense of what it felt like to practice then, as opposed to now?
SY: Oh yes! But the work to dig this out will take teams of homeopathic historians years to do the work. I am just one of the first little fireflies to shine just enough light on this topic to illuminate the thousands of hours required to uncover this fabulous work, but it has begun and it is happening as we speak, as Robin Murphy expounded with such enthusiasm at his recent autumn seminar in London in 2013. The work is beginning at last, so everyone can get involved at whatever level! Let’s drown out the skeptics and scientific fundamentalism with our already discovered discoveries, and let us all dig out more and more and more and more!!! Real science is our friend and our ally, despite what the nutters say!! The world will be amazed and so will we! Just two examples will suffice for the very many others: http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2009/02/15/robert-thomas-cooper-1844-1903/ and http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2009/10/07/baron-louis-joseph-g-seutin-1793-1862/
BaronLouis Joseph G. Seutin (1793-1862) was a Belgian orthodox physician, Professor and Surgeon in Chief at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the personal doctor of Leopold I Belgium, Head Doctor of the Belgian army, and Commander of the Order of Leopold, who converted to homeopathy. Baron Seutin is famous for his ‘starched bandages’ (plaster casts or “bandage amidonnee”) which were introduced widely due to his publications, and of course are a mainstay of fracture clinics today. Baron Seutin was also the first physician to use chloroform for anaesthesia.
AS: What kind of effort is required to piece together these biographies?
SY: I was extremely lucky to just fall into a method of research on Google that I did not find strange, rare or peculiar, but which seems to have mystified people, and I am always asked this question. I started with a name – it was Abraham Lincoln, and entered ‘Abraham Lincoln homeopath’ into the search engine and that was that! http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2007/09/02/abraham-lincoln-and-homeopathy/
My darling son introduced me early to Google books and the rest is history! It takes a bit of juggling sometimes, and different combinations yield different Google responses. Just keep trying different combinations and it will all come up. I have a rule that I search at least 10 pages of each request response, as the American sources seem to come up first, and some of the best finds are on page 5 or 6 or 7 – but you soon get your eye in. If there is nothing on any particular name, I can usually tell by the 2nd page, so I will enter a different search – Initials Surname homeopath will elicit a different result to Full Name Surname homeopath. Just Surname homeopath is also a valuable search. Initials Surname + another surname (of a known homeopath) will get a different result, for example Surname + Constantine Hering etc. or any other obvious combination depending on what you find when you are working up a name. Google books can be most rewarding or most frustrating, as it will compensate for the very many misspellings of a name or different spellings of a name. Don’t forget to search the ordinary Google search as well, as this will yield an altogether different set of results.
There are times when I just cannot find anything at all about someone and you have to know when to leave it and walk away for your own sanity! There are occasions when the results are simply shocking!! I put Boyanus homeopath into Google search and discovered internet pornography that still sickens me to think about, until I hit the correct spelling of his name and knew it was worth the effort! http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2009/07/01/carl-bojanus-1818-1897/
Once in a book or document, you have to take more care – it is often necessary to use all the different spellings of homeopath, homeopathy, homeopathic, homoeopath, homeopathy, homoeopathic etc to get up the reference. Research takes a certain mentality and lots of patience, I guess I just find it meditative and I am stubborn and relentless at times, especially when I just know there is some juicy historical tidbit just a click away. It can take days to get it, but it is obsessively fascinating. I think anglers would understand what I am describing – trying to get that big fat pike you just know is lurking at the bottom of the lake! Also, you can get delayed for days, weeks even, following all the links that come up from just one name and the story that name has to tell. I will stop and do other bios for my histories http://sueyounghistories.com/ alongside the biography I am writing, as I always have one eye on what information can I circulate that will upset the skeptics the most, and believe me, they can get very, very unhinged about interesting historic homeopathic facts that don’t fit with their tiny world view, so I always circulate ‘homeopathic heroes’ because this lifts the spirits of our embattled profession at this difficult time! For example :
that’s probably enough for now but there are literally hundreds of others!
Oh! OK! Just one more then…
William Crookes (1832-1919) was a British chemist and physicist, a lecturer in chemistry at the Chester Diocesan Training College, and the founder of Chemical News. He discovered new compounds of selenium, and the element thallium. William Crookes invented the spinthariscope, the Crookes Tube, the ‘radiant state’, the radiometer. He was an Illume, a supporter of homeopathy and of ‘hidden knowledge’, who took these new ideas and simply wrote them up in ‘modern scientific jargon’ and the allopathic community was fascinated, impressed and claimed him as one of their own, but all the while, he was supporting us!
AS: Mainstream histories of homeopathy leave out a lot. What light do these stories shed on the history of homeopathy that is usually not found elsewhere?
SY: The difference is, I think, the huge numbers of books and journals that have been uploaded to the internet in recent years. It just simply was not possible to access the information required before, especially not in the comfort of your own home! Who really had the money, the time and the wherewithal to do the research needed to do justice to our beloved profession before now? Now is a special time. It is our time! Our hour has come, whether we can believe it or not. I would like to pay some compliments to previous homeopathic historians, most especially to Harris Livermore Coulter’s Divided Legacy Series, which are exemplary! In fact, if homeopathic history is written by a homeopath, they are all good as far as I have been able to tell. The trouble comes when orthodox researchers get involved, and they feel simply compelled to leave the homeopaths out completely and comprehensively! Astonishing! This is why we should all become homeopathic historians, because it upsets the small minded and thus it is good for our homeopathic souls!
AS: Which kinds of stories move you the most?
SY: There are so many different stories, it is hard to say this one or that one. I do especially love the ones that behave like a loose thread, you know, the thread you pull on which unweaves the whole garment and a completely unknown version of hidden history lies before your startled eyes, which makes your heart pump! This is astonishing and relatively common with homeopathic historical research, and it is what keeps me at it. After all, we are homeopaths and we do so love stories! Each one is a different remedy after all! Each story uncovered is healing the injustice done to history, to us, and to our wonderful method of healing! One example here should do the job of explaining this principle quite nicely! http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2009/10/19/peter-stuart-1815-1888/
Peter Stuart junior (1788?-1888), known as the the “Ditton Doctor”, was a Liverpool ship owner, and merchant, who laid the foundation for a vast Imperial trade for the British Empire, and as a lay homeopath, he devoted one afternoon a week for forty years to dispense homeopathic medication to the poor. It is estimated that during his lifetime he prescribed for some 300,000 to 350,000 people. Peter Stuart founded the firm Stuart and Douglas on the Brass River in West Africa, and he banished the slave trade from that region – ‘… he was proud of the fact that he never made a cent out of the slave trade… ’
AS: The history of homeopathy was influenced by many individuals who most people never heard of. Can you talk about how some lesser known people had an important impact?
SY: Yes, but I would be talking from now to Kingdom come and you would probably have to shoot me to get some peace! I will finish the biography I am writing of THE MOST ASTONISHING PERSON I have come across, out of all of them.
http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/03/20/james-john-garth-wilkinson-and-homeopathy/ (though http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/08/04/edward-william-berridge-and-homeopathy/ takes some beating!) and then I will start writing short articles – it is simply too much to answer here. The whole history of the 19th century needs to be rewritten. If you think about it, the same old wonderful names are repeated so often that they drown out and obscure the fascinating people who stand in the shadows just behind them – for example:
http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2007/08/24/charles-darwin-and-homeopathy/ obscures http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/07/29/the-drysdale-family-and-homeopathy/ and similarly http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/06/17/charles-dickens-and-homeopathy/ obscures http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/07/11/frederick-hervey-foster-quin-and-homeopathy/ and http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2008/07/18/james-manby-gully-and-homeopathy/ – there are so many examples of this, I will not laden this interview with more examples out of respect for the poor reader!
AS: Who from homeopathy’s history would you like to dine with?
SY: All of them! One a week, with you all sitting there behind me to listen in, though I think I would soon be elbowed out of the way, as you all catch this very contagious homeopathic history bug!! Beware! Homeopathic history needs a government health warning or none of us will ever get the washing up done!
AS: I’ve spent many hours reading those stories on your website. Thank you for this wonderful project, an invaluable legacy for us all.