Looking back

In 2011 the journal Homeopathy celebrates its centenary. For one hundred years this quarterly journal has been at the forefront of improving the understanding and clinical practice of homeopathy by publishing high quality articles on clinical research and evidence-based practice. Formerly known as The British Journal of Homeopathy, this erudite publication continues to bring the latest developments in homeopathic medicine to an eager readership.

To commemorate this milestone anniversary, Health and Homeopathy is looking back at just a few of the influential figures and significant events that have shaped homeopathy in the UK over the last 100 years. The history of homeopathy is rich and colourful and features many people who have made notable contributions towards a wider acceptance of homeopathic medicine both here in the UK and farther afield. Some leading figures and events will unavoidably be omitted from this brief history; however, this is in no way a reflection on their importance, just a consequence of limited space.

Dr Margery Grace Blackie 1898-1981
Margery Blackie’s uncle was the famous homeopathic physician Dr James Compton Burnett and possibly due to his influence, when only five years old Margery declared that she wanted to be a doctor. She achieved her ambition in 1923 when she qualified as a doctor from the London School of Medicine for Women. The following year she joined the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.

Admired by both homeopathic and conventional physicians, Margery Blackie is often described as the most outstanding homeopathic doctor of her generation. She was later to become physician to Queen Elizabeth II, but it’s her influence as a teacher of homeopathy for which she is best remembered. A brilliant teacher, Margery Blackie inspired a whole generation of homeopathic doctors with her legendary flair for diagnosis and vivid descriptions of various constitutional types of patients.

Her influence continues today in the form of the Blackie Foundation Trust, a charitable organisation set up by Dr Blackie in 1971 to promote homeopathy to a wider audience and provide financial assistance to medical professionals wanting to undertake training or research in homeopathy.

In 1948 homeopathic medicine became one of the services available to patients in the newly formed National Health Service. Provision of homeopathic treatment was centred round the five homeopathic hospitals in London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol and Tunbridge Wells.

There was fierce opposition from some in the medical profession to the inclusion of homeopathy in the new health service with opponents viewing homeopathic doctors as “credulous and deluded cranks”. But homeopathy had many influential supporters including the Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and the Minister of Health, and driving force behind the NHS, Aneurin Bevan, who gave a personal assurance on the future of homeopathy in the NHS.

Incorporation of the Faculty of Homeopathy 1950
The Faculty of Homeopathy is a registering body for statutorily registered healthcare professionals who have also trained in homeopathy. It was formed in 1944 from the old British Homeopathic Society (founded in 1843). In 1950 the Faculty of Homeopathy was incorporated by an Act of Parliament. The Act recognises the Faculty’s role in regulating the education, training and practice of homeopathy by the medical profession. Amendments to the Byelaws and Regulations over the years have extended the Faculty’s role to include other statutorily registered healthcare professionals.

Staines air disaster 1972
On 18 June 1972, the homeopathic community and particularly the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital (RLHH) suffered one of its darkest days, when a Trident airliner crashed at Staines, close to Heathrow airport, killing all 118 people on board.  Among the dead were sixteen doctors and colleagues from the RLHH including one of its most senior doctors, Dr John Raeside. They were on their way from Heathrow to the International Homeopathic League Congress in Brussels when the plane came down soon after take-off.

In 2004, thirty-two years after the disaster, a memorial stained glass window was installed in St Mary’s Church in Staines. Then on the anniversary of the crash a special church service was held where the window was blessed by the Bishop of Kensington. The window features 118 stars in its border to represent those who died. There is also a dove depicting flight and symbolising peace, while the trees and fields in the lower part of the window represent the crash site and Staines Moor. BA, British Airports Authority and Spelthorne Council paid for the window and also provided a memorial garden in the Moormede Recreation Ground, Waters Drive, Staines. The BHA sends flowers to the church each year on June 18th when a special Memorial service is held.

Llewelyn Ralph Twentyman 1914-2010
Ralph Twentyman trained at Cambridge and University College Hospital before joining the RAF medical service and receiving a posting to Habbaniya, Iraq. On leaving the RAF, he trained in homeopathy at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (RLHH) and was later appointed to the staff as consultant physician.

Ralph had always struggled with the reductionist approach of modern medicine and his keen and inquiring mind sought out new methods of healing. This brought him into contact with Rudolph Steiner, the founding father anthroposophical medicine (a holistic form of medicine that combines conventional and complementary approaches to healthcare). He used his newly acquired knowledge of anthroposophical medicine to introduce the mistletoe treatment of cancer to the RLHH, and throughout his life viewed anthroposophic methods as an extension of Samuel Hahnemann’s homeopathic approach. Ralph Twentyman became editor of the British Journal of Homeopathy In 1958, a position he held which for 21 years until his retirement. He died peacefully in 2010 aged 95.

John Bertrand Leslie Ainsworth 1919-2007
John Ainsworth made a huge contribution to homeopathic pharmacy. While reading for a degree in chemistry at King’s College London and Bristol, his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. He enlisted in the Army and subsequently saw action in North Africa and Italy with the Eighth Army, and later in northern Europe.

After the war John took a two-year pharmacy course and joined the Register on 22 July 1949. He worked at Nelson’s Homeopathic pharmacy and eventually became its director. In 1978 he opened his own homeopathic pharmacy in New Cavendish Street, London. As the business grew, Ainsworth’s Homeopathic Pharmacy attracted many influential clients including three Royal Physicians.

Throughout his professional life John enthusiastically supported the work of the British Homeopathic Association. He joined its council in 1955 and after serving as treasurer for many years, he was elected life president in 1992. His many achievements included organising courses for pharmacists through the BHA and advocating over-the-counter supply of homeopathic medicines.

He also played a major role in getting homeopathic remedies registered as medicines under the Medicines Act 1968. This was crucially important for homeopathy, for if they were not covered by the Act, homeopathy would have had great difficulty presenting itself as a health therapy. In recognition of his important contribution to homeopathic pharmacy John Ainsworth was awarded fellowships by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Faculty of Homeopathy (where he was the first pharmacist to be so honoured).

Dr David Kent Warkentin 1951-2010
Homeopathy is frequently and quite correctly referred to as a traditional form of medicine. Practitioners are rightly proud of its long history dating back over 200 years. But homeopathy does not eschew modern developments and has adopted advances in digital technology to aid the work of the homeopath in healing the sick. An example of this is the development of the MacRepertory and ReferenceWorks, two computer programmes created by Dr David Warkentin.

When a friend loaned a Mac computer to Dr Warkentin in 1986, he immediately saw its potential for homeopathy. At the time there was only PC compatible, text-based, homeopathy software available which often didn’t even have a repertory (the index of disease symptoms that lists remedies associated with specific symptoms) for selecting rubrics (groups of individual symptoms expressed by the patient). Dr Warkentin set about creating his own programme and eventually produced the MacRepertory, which is today used by homeopaths all over the world. Thanks to David Warkentin’s vision, there are now a series of programmes that can aid students in their studies and improve the accuracy of homeopathic prescribing by practitioners.

The British Homeopathic Association centenary 2002
In 1902 a group of doctors and supporters led by Dr George Burford founded the British Homeopathic Association’s (BHA) to provide information about homeopathy, guide people to practitioners and raise funds for education and research.

The BHA has survived many setbacks, including bombs twice damaging its London offices during the First World War, but it still remains true to its original aims and continues to campaign for homeopathy and played an important role in saving the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital from threatened closure in the 1970s. In 1990 the BHA merged with the Homeopathic Trust to consolidate efforts in promoting the health benefits of homeopathy.

Over the years the BHA has attracted support from many illustrious people including HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother who became Patron in 1982, and who attended receptions celebrating the BHA’s 90th and 95th anniversaries in 1992 and 1997.