Biographies of Homeopaths Homeopathy Papers

A Brief Biography of William Tod Helmuth, MD

A brief biography of William Tod Helmuth, MD – Surgeon and Homeopath. Author of Surgery and its Adoption to Homœopathic Practice

William Tod Helmuth, A. M., LL. D., former professor of surgery, dean of the faculty and also trustee of the New York Homœopathic Medical College and Hospital, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 30, 1833, and died in the city of New York, May 15, 1902.

His literary education was acquired at St. Timothy’s College, Baltimore, Maryland, and in 1850 he took up the study of medicine in the old Homœopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, pursuing his investigations under the preceptorship of his uncle, Dr. William Scheaff Helmuth, then professor of theory and practice of medicine in that institution, and himself a former pupil of Hewson, a distinguished surgeon of Philadelphia during the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

Dr. Helmuth, the surgeon, took his medical degree in 1853, and in 1854 was one of the dispensary physicians, and also prosector of surgery to Dr. Beakley. On July 17, 1856, he was appointed to the chair of anatomy in his alma mater, but at the close of the session of 1857-58 he resigned and removed to St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1859, he was one of the founders of the Homœopathic Medical College of Missouri, was its first incumbent of the chair of anatomy, and also was registrar of the faculty. In 1865 he was called to the chair of theory and practice. The year 1868 was spent in Europe, perfecting himself in surgery, and on his return to America he organized in 1869 the St. Louis College of Homœopathic Physicians and Surgeons, of which he was the dean and also professor of surgery.

In 1870 he accepted the call of the trustees of the New York Homœopathic Medical College to the Chair of Surgery in that institution, with which he afterward was identified throughout the remaining period of his life, and in the history of which he was for more than thirty years a valuable factor, not only in the professor’s chair, but in almost every department of institutional life.

In 1891 he was elected member of the board of trustees, where he gave excellent service in the administrative affairs of the college until the time of his death. In 1893 he was made dean of the faculty and performed the responsible duties of that office as long as he lived.

As an evidence of the high regard in which Dr. Helmuth was held by the trustees of the college corporation, an extract of the minutes (May 20, 1902) is here given :

“As three years ago the trustees of this institution were suddenly called to mourn the loss of Roswell P. Flower, our great benefactor, so now are we in like manner called to deplore the death of William Tod Helmuth, the great educator of the medical students of our college -the one the creator and donor of the famous hospital that bears his name ; the other its distinguished surgical head, dean of the faculty of both college and hospital, and an invaluable member of our board of trustees.”

In writing of his professional attainments, one of Helmuth’s biographers said : “No one school, no one college, no one city, state or country can lay claim to the education of this internationally respected humanitarian.”

“To Dr. Helmuth more than to any other one man do we owe the honor that today graces the surgery of our school. He was the grand pioneer, in this art-the man who dared to stand forth and show the medical world that homœopathic physicians could be equally good surgeons with those of the dominant school.

With courage undaunted and fortitude unequalled he pushed forth into fields before untraversed by men who shared his faith in the practice of medicine according to the law of similia, and somewhat against the wishes and belief of honored colleagues who were so incredulous as to think that surgery was not needed if similibus was heeded.”

“With his departure,” says Dr. Newton, “there went out of the homœopathic school of surgery, easily, its brightest light, but the rays of that ever-burning have for an approximate half century so shed their light before and penetrated the minds of men that, seeing his good works, they have followed him and many of them have become famous in this branch of the profession.”

Helmuth was a scholar in the finest sense of the word, and a writer of remarkable versatility, both as narrator and as commentator, and his contributions to the literature of the profession reflected the man himself and the catholicity of his talents. His first work, “Surgery and its Adoption to Homœopathic Practice,” appeared in 1855, and his master effort, “A System of Surgery,” came from the press in 1873 and was revised in 1878, 1879 and 1887.

He was author of several other works of professional character, and perhaps as many more which were written in lighter vein. His monograph articles may be counted by scores. His degree of LL. D. was conferred by Yale University in 1888. He married in St. Louis, February 10, 1859, Fannie Ida Pritchard, daughter of Colonel John Nicholas Pritchard, and had two children, Fannie Ida and William Tod Helmuth, Jr.

Excerpted from: History of Homeopathy and Its Institutions in America  – Williamm Harvey King

About the author

William Harvey King

William Harvey King was born in the village of Waverly, Tioga county, New York, February 21. 1861. Under the persuasion of an uncle, he went to New York city and in September, 1880, matriculated at the New York Homœopathic Medical College, and after a two years' course in that institution was graduated (March 16, 1882) M. D., fourth honorable mention man of his class. His degree of doctor of laws was conferred by the Central University of Iowa in 1902.
From 1897 to 1903 Dr. King held the chair of electro-therapeutics in the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women. From 1885 to 1894 he was electro-therapeutist to Hahnemann Hospital, New York city. He held membership in the American X-Ray Society, the National Society of Electro-Therapeutists, the American Institute of Homœopathy and the New York State Homœopathic Medical Society.

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