Homeopathy Papers

How Some Of The Old Masters Converted To Homeopathy

The Dynamics of Our Homeopathic Hospital
Written by Katja Schuett

Homeopath Katja Schütt shares stories of how some old masters converted to homeopathy, including Kent, Boenninghausen, Hering, Burnett and Skinner.


“Not everybody will love the physician, who boldly cuts with a knife into the rotten flesh of lies. The prejudice is powerful in the world, and he who touches an old bylaws, be prepared to be hated by thousands for it.“ ~ Johann Christoph Friedrich Schiller

Since the very beginning homeopathy constituted a challenge to the system of orthodox medicine and remains to be so until today. However, many of it’s strongest enemies or skeptics became Hahnemann’s devoted followers and practitioners of homeopathy after seeing its remedies work. The following stories of Kent, Boennighausen, Hering, Burnett and Skinner may stand for the ranks of men who were dissatisfied with the results of orthodox treatment, or who were themselves saved by homeopathy.

James Tyler Kent

“Eternal principles, themselves, are authority. The Law of Similars is a Divine Law.”

James Tyler Kent was born in Woodhull, in the state of New York in the US in 1849. He studied medicine and qualified as a doctor of medicine at the Faculty of Bellevue Medical College. Afterwards he attended lectures at the Eclectic Medical Institute at Cincinnati, where he was also taught homeopathy, albeit rather superficially, so that he remained unimpressed by this therapeutic method until his wife was cured by homeopathy. Although he was rather undemonstrative, Kent dearly loved his wife. He was very concerned when she became ill in 1878, and he and other physicians were unable to help her. She suffered from weakness, anemia and severe insomnia which confined her to bed for months on end. When time passed and her condition worsened, she asked her husband to consult a homeopathic physician who had been recommended to her as being very knowledgeable. Kent didn’t like the idea but agreed, as nothing had been of help so far. But he decided to attend the consultation, especially as he doubted the efficacy of homeopathy due to the smallness of their applied doses. One afternoon Dr. Richard Phelan came in his carriage and stayed for more than an hour, asking questions which Kent found strange and not pertaining to the disease. He could not help to laugh mockingly and to shake his head incomprehensibly. Phelan asked in detail for his wife‘s history, her state of mind, anxieties, desires and aversions, although she did not suffer from digestive ailments. He asked about her monthly uneasiness, reactions with regard to warmth, cold and the seasons etc. Then he examined her thoroughly and finally asked for a glass of water. Phelan put some tiny globules into the water and recommended Kent to give his wife a little spoon every two hours until “she falls asleep“. As she hadn’t slept for several weeks, Kent assumed him to be a bragger or cheater and bid farewell dryly. He moved to the next room to prepare for his lecture and came back after two hours to give her another spoon, being unconvinced of its usefulness. But then he lost himself in his work, and forgot to administer the next dose after another two hours. Only after four hours he remembered the physician’s request and rapidly went to see her. To his surprise he found his wife sleeping deeply and soundly. The old physician came to visit her each day, and soon Kent’s wife felt better and fully recovered after some weeks. What no other of his eclectic or allopathic colleagues could do had been effected by a homeopathic practitioner!

Kent was deeply impressed. Such an outcome couldn‘t be the result of chance: Could homeopathy be a valuable system for treatment? Being an honest and noble character he apologized for his skeptical attitude which had changed now through the cure of his wife. He decided to study homeopathy thoroughly and realized that homeopathy was the only therapeutic method to offer laws and principles to follow. Thereupon he wholeheartedly devoted his life to homeopathy and became one of the most famous homeopaths of the time who profoundly influenced the development of homeopathy. He favored constitutional prescribing with high potencies, introduced religious elements into the homeopathic doctrine and the term of “Hering’s law of cure“, making it a dogma for case management. His way of teaching the materia medica has been appreciated by many of his pupils.

Clemens Franz Maria von Boenninghausen

All objections to high potencies are at once cut off by the homeopathic cures of animals. These cures, and only these, give us the surest and most irrefutable information what and how much medicine, and also high potencies, are able to do, quite independent of all moral influence and of dieting, both of which are here entirely eliminated, so that not the remotest suspicion can be admitted in any of them.“

Boenninghausen was born in 1785, on the estate Herinckhave near Fleringen in the province of Overijssel in the Netherlands. Early in his life he was a lawyer and held the position of King’s Auditor. Also being an agriculturist by natural inclination he resigned his position in 1810, and studied agriculture, in which he excelled also.  When he became ill with pulmonary tuberculosis in 1827, his life again changed direction. He did not find any relief from orthodox treatment and when all hope of his recovery was given up, he prepared to die. He wrote a letter to his close botanist friend Dr. A. Weihe, not knowing that he was first a homeopathic physician. He expressed his hopelessness and bid him his last goodbye. Dr.Weihe was deeply moved by his letter and answered him immediately. He asked him for his symptoms and to try homeopathy, also expressing his hope that by means of this healing method he might be able to help his friend, whom he valued so highly. Boenninghausen was prescribed Pulsatilla. He recovered gradually and was considered as cured by the end of summer.

It’s no wonder, his life having been saved by homeopathy, that this brilliant mind got interested in homeopathy and delved into its philosophy and practice, again excelling in a field that had raised his passion. Boenninghausen became a close ally of Hahnemann and one of the most famous homeopaths. He was even granted permission to practice homeopathy in 1843 although not having studied medicine formally. He came to be highly recognized for creating the first homeopathic repertory and his comprehensive writings.

Constantine Hering

And it was to me they told‚ ‘Homeopathy is dead!‘ Many times since, the dead have buried their dead.‘ Progress goes on. The world is moving.“

Constantine Hering was born in Oschatz, in the estate Saxony, Germany, in 1800. He studied medicine in Leipzig, Germany, but moved to the US in 1833, where he came to be known as the founder of homeopathy in America. During his medical studies Hering became the favourite pupil of the eminent surgeon, Rabbi, who criticized Hahnemann and use to ridicule homeopathy. At that time the Organon was a challenge to the orthodox system of medicine.

In 1821, the founder of a publishing house in Leipzig, C.Baumgartner, wanted  a book written against homeopathy which could quite finish the system. Rabbi was asked to write it, but recommended his youngest assistant Hering due to lack of time. Hering was pleased with this mark of confidence and set about the work in right earnest for about two years. His first question had been: What is the meaning of similar, and, what can it mean for one thing to be similar to another? He began to study the Materia Medica and came to the conclusion that the whole business was nothing but a swindle, as he found under every remedy the symptom of vertigo. Writing against homeopathy, he asked an old friend and apothecary for a good tincture of Cinchona Bark. The apothecary sensed his purpose, knowing that Cinchona Bark had paved the way for Hahnemann to make his discovery, and remarked that this was very dangerous. Hering answered: “Have no fear, I have studied mathematics and am able to tell the true from what is not true.“ [1] Hering was determined to discover the boundaries between the true and the false in homeopathy and, although nearly starving due to lack of money, devoted all his strength to the further study of Hahnemann’s books.

It was a year and a half later, after making a dissection upon the exhumed body of a suicide an only partly healed cut on the forefinger of his right hand began to show signs of infection. It became seriously infected. Allopathic measures such as leeches, calomel and hellstone had proved powerless, yet he refused amputation, which would have crippled him and impeded his ambitions of becoming an obstetrician or surgeon. He rather preferred death. But one of Hahnemann’s earliest students persuaded him to try Arsenicum, in   “ridiculously small doses“ and, given internally! After a few days of taking a few doses on the tongue he felt a sense of relief, and with it “the last obstruction that had made me blind to the rising sun of the new healing art vanished before my eyes“. [2]

He then devoted his entire hand, body and soul, to the cause which Hahnemann gave to suffering humanity.[3]  Hahnemann’s teachings gave him a new purpose in life. He made many cures and literary contributions to homeopathy and fanatically went about the country to deliver his enthusiastic speeches on homeopathy. He discovered and proved important remedies such as  Lachesis mutus and Glonoinum. The use of decimal potencies originates with Hering. He was also the co-founder of the Homoeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania and the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia. Finally, Hering was glad that his book was never printed.

James Compton Burnett

If homeopathy is to go on advancing, we must face the question of getting behind the symptoms, so that we may not only treat the symptoms homeopathically, but also the malady in its essence.“

James Compton Burnett was born in England in 1840. He attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865, graduated from Glasgow in 1872, and completed an internship for his MD degree at Barnhill Parochial Hospital and Asylum in Glasgow in 1876. Burnett came to embrace homeopathy already at the beginning of his career, when working in the hospital during his internship where countless people died whom he thought, ought to be curable. Amongst them also Georgie, who was loved by everybody. Three medical men besides Burnett had treated Georgie, all hospital men. Still pleurisy followed the fever, dropsy followed the pleurisy, and poor little Georgie died. Feeling sure that he need not have died, Burnett was deeply distressed and considered finishing his medical career and becoming a farmer. In this way he at least should be able to lead a wholesome, natural life. However, a medical friend from the Royal Infirmary, with whom he discussed the matter, suggested to him to study homeopathy as a possible alternative to orthodox treatment. He persuaded Burnett to study homeopathy first, and refute it, or, if apparently true, to try it in the hospital. After many doubts and fears, very much as if he were contemplating a crime, Burnett procured Richard Hughes’s “Pharmacodynamics“ and “Therapeutics,” which his friend said were a good introduction to homeopathy. Within a short time Burnett mastered their main points, and came to the conclusion either that homeopathy was a very grand thing indeed, or that this Dr. Hughes must be a very big liar. For Burnett, there was no middle way, it must be either good clear God’s truth, or black lying.

Being full of passion on account of Georgie’s fate, he studied the homeopathic literature and found their claim to cut short simple fever with Aconite. Feverish colds and chills were common enough just then, and he had, moreover, a ward where children thus taken ill were put till their diseases had declared themselves or drafted off to the various wards, as the case might be. Burnett had some of Fleming’s Tincture of Aconite in his surgery, and of this he instructed the nurse to give it to all the cases on the one side of the ward as soon as they were brought in. Those on the other side were treated in the authorized orthodox way. At his next morning visit he found nearly all the youngsters on the Aconite side feverless. Those on the non-aconite orthodox side were worse, or about the same. And so it went on day after day. Those that got Aconite were generally convalescent in a short time, except in the comparatively seldom cases where the seemingly simple chill was the prodromal stage of a specific disease such as measles, scarlatina or rheumatic fever.

Burnett had told the nurse nothing about the contents of his big bottle, but she soon baptized it “Dr. Burnett’s Fever Bottle.” One day Burnett was unable to go his usual rounds through the wards and absent for two days. On entering the children’s ward the next time in the early morning, the nurse informed him, with a certain forced dutifulness, that all the cases might, she thought, be dismissed. Wondering why he asked “How’s that?“ As the doctor did not come round for two days, the nurse had given Burnett‘s fever medicine to all the children. She accused him of being like all the young doctors, only trying experiments. Thereupon, Burnett instructed the nurse to give the medicine in future to all children that come in. This was done till he left the place, and with Aconite for chills and fever most children recovered rapidly.[4 ]

To this experience added the homeopathic cure of his own illness as one of the numerous reasons for being a homeopath. When Burnett himself was ill and nearly died from chronic pleurisy and adhesions of the left lung, he treated his complaint homeopathically. Several eminent physicians of orthodox medicine were unable to help him. Even faith as a remedy did no good, as his faith in them was big enough to remove mountains! Hydropathy and a change of diet had done no better either. He bought some Bryonia Alba, and was well in a fortnight, having never been troubled again! Burnett became a powerful force in homeopathy in his time and was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness.

Thomas Skinner

“Let every physician and student of medicine do as I have done, carefully peruse for himself The Organon of Hahnemann, his Chronic Diseases and his Materia Medica Pura and I warrant him that he will rise from the perusal thereof a wiser man.”

Thomas Skinner was born in Edinburgh, England, in 1825. He was an allopathic physician who specialized in gynecology and obstetics, and a strident opponent of homeopathy who had persecuted homeopaths with the utmost bitterness as enemies to the human race. In his ignorance of the subject the system of homeopathy seemed to him beyond the bounds of human credibility and reason wherefore he took a decided stand against homeopathy and an active part in persecuting and attempting to stamp it out. His great abhorrence of homeopathy lead him to pass and perpetuate a law as part of the code of laws of the Liverpool Medical Institution which forbade any practicing homeopath to be either a member of the institution or subscriber to the library.

Yet, when he became ill, orthodox medicine was powerless although the most worthy of his colleagues did their very best. He suffered from severe insomnia, was unable to sleep for more than two hours for a couple of months, and also suffered from constipation, acidity of stomach, general debility, and bodily and mental anguish. Dr. Boericke, of Philadelphia prescribed a few doses of the millionth potency of Sulphur which effected a rapid amelioration and restored his life to health. Skinner said: I shall never forget the marvelous change which the first dose effected in a few weeks, especially the rolling away, as it were, of a dense and heavy cloud from my mind.[5]  This experience led him follow in the footsteps of Hahnemann and to embrace homeopathy after having practiced orthodox medicine for twenty-seven years with great success. So he sacrificed much but won even more! Homeopathy enabled him to treat the diseases of females without all the allopathic means of mechanical and surgical interventions which he came to see as one of the greatest medical scandals of the age.[6] He changed his practice, resigned from the Liverpool Medical Institute and became one of the greatest homeopaths of his time. He was a high potency prescriber and invented the Skinner Centesimal Fluxion Potentiser to prepare these remedies. He also became a very influential figure, linking US and British homeopathy.

It is but rational to accept as truth that which has been thoroughly investigated and verified. The homeopath doesn‘t have to fear that. He has got at first principles and can apply them, he works by Laws. Hahnemann opined:

„This doctrine appeals not only chiefly, but solely, to the verdict of experience – ‘repeat the experiments’, it cries aloud, ‘repeat them carefully and accurately and you will find the doctrine confirmed at every step’ – and it does what no medical doctrine, no system of physic, no so called therapeutics ever did or could do, it insists upon being judged by the result.”

But narrow-minded people, with ignorance for any knowledge outside the schools, are the ones who bar progress. Let them cry. Homeopathy will never die! It has stood the test of time because resting on the eternal pillars of a philosophy that is in tune with the laws of nature and which has been proven by countless cures as history and statistics relate. Those, who conscientiously and sufficiently study homeopathy won’t be disappointed as to it‘s efficacy and superiority. But the dilemma is: “What is the most difficult of all? That which seems most simple: to see with your eyes what is before your eyes“, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has nicely put into words.

Being dissatisfied with the illusory and aggravating nature of ordinary treatment Hahnemann had abandoned his medical practice and searched for a truly curative healing method. Looking back upon his life he wrote to his disciples shortly before his death:

“For forty years now I have not drawn one single drop of blood, opened one seton, used pain-producing processes, or applied vesicatories. I have never employed acupuncture or cautery, weakened patients with hot baths, abstracted from them their vital humors by sudorifics, or scoured them out with emetics and laxatives. I have never had need to destroy in that way their organs of digestion, and although surrounded by anxiously.watching adversaries who were ready to pounce upon me at the slightest mistake, I have never been able to treat patients with such success that the ever-increasing afflux of patients from near and very distant parts, from the highest to the lowest ranks of society, and the gratitude of those I have cured, surpasses all my expectations.“[7]


[1] p.103, Knerr

[2] p.72, Knerr

[3] p.72, Knerr

[4] James C.Burnett

[5] p.46, Barker

[6] p.47, Barker

[7] p.304, Haehl


James Tyler Kent, Zur Theorie der Homöopathie, Haug Verlag

Calvin B.Knerr, The conversation, talks, life & times of Hering, B.Jain Publishers Ltd.

J.E.Barker, Miracles of healing, B. Jain Publishers Ltd.

James C.Burnett, Fifty Reasons for Being a Homeopath, B. Jain Publishers Ltd.

Richard Haehl, Samuel Hahnemann: His Life and Work, Vol. I, B. Jain Publishers Ltd.


About the author

Katja Schuett

Katja Schutt, Msc, HP, DHM, PGHom, DVetHom, has studied homeopathy with several schools, amongst which David Little’s advanced course stands out as it offers a really deep insight into homeopathic philosophy and materia medica (simillimum.com). Her current focus lies in working with animals and studying history, the old masters, and research.


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