Established April 10, 1844, the year after the death of homeopathy's German-born founder, Dr. C. F. Samuel Hahnemann, the American Institute of Homeopathy (AIH) is the oldest, extant, national professional medical organization in the United States. The Institute has survived the vicissitudes of fortune attendant upon homeopathy and, indeed, upon the whole field of alternative medicine in the United States of America, to find itself alive in a time when the milieu is more welcoming to complementary medicine, in general, and to homeopathy, in particular. The American Institute of Homeopathy, its Board of Trustees, and its membership look toward a bright future for themselves and for the public whom they serve as they dedicate themselves to their mission statement, "Advancing Health Care through Homeotherapeutics."
The Beginning of the American Institute of Homeopathy
By William E. Kirtsos
The best thing which we derive from history is the enthusiasm that it raises in us. - Goethe
To appreciate the origin and the development of the American Institute of Homeopathy, it is important to know something of the influences behind it. The history of Homeopathic medicine in the United States, and more specifically the beginning of the American Institute of Homeopathy, at least, is important to the degree it has influenced the present. And, by doing so, it may also shape the future.
The following is a historical compilation of the origins of the American Institute of Homeopathy.
Hans Birch Gram
Homeopathy was first introduced in the United States by Hans Birch Gram, who was born in Boston, MA of Danish extraction. After Gram's mother's death he went to Copenhagen and later began the study of medicine. Following receipt of the degree, Gram fully tested the method of Hahnemann and, upon his return to the United States, he settled in New York City and set up practice.
In 1825, shortly after returning to the United States, Gram published the first work in America on Homeopathy. However, Gram's importance would be found in the converts he brought to the new system. This was assisted by the fact that Gram was a Freemason, and that several of his first converts were also Masons.
Some of these early Homoeopaths were Drs. Folger, Wilsey, A.G. Hull, F. Vanderburg, O. Stearns, W. Channing, J. Curtis, and John F. Gray. Many of these and other early Homoeopathic physicians were converts from allopathic medicine. They received their medical education from some of the best schools of the day: Yale, Rutgers, Columbia, etc. as well through a system of apprenticeship regulated by local medical societies. Many of these early converts to Homoeopathy were expelled from their allopathic societies, or they decided to leave and form separate Homoeopathic societies. By the early 1840's, Gram’s influence had helped to spread Homoeopathy to urban centers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Detwiller and Hering
During this period, Drs. Henry Detwiller and Constantine Hering, known as the Father of American Homoeopathy, established the Allentown Academy in Pennsylvania. This academy, begun in 1836, was the first Homoeopathic school. Instruction and education were taught in German only. The graduates of this institution initially spread the new doctrine primarily to German immigrants, both East and West. These physicians experienced similar allopathic society expulsion and attacks as Homoeopathic medicine became more widely known.
By 1843, the Homoeopathic movement had grown considerably from the early days of Gram. Hering himself noted that a number of early converts to Homoeopathy came as a result of the cholera epidemics of the 1830's and 1840's. Homoeopathic physicians were some of the best educated practitioners of the day. Their practices, especially in the urban areas of the North, were quite impressive. Societies had been formed in several states. English and German literature, including several journals, had become increasingly more available. Dispensaries and clinics were opening. But more was needed.
In 1843, the New York Homoeopathic Physicians' Society, had experienced this growth and interest in Homoeopathy over its nine-year existence. But the Society had two basic concerns: to disseminate a broader knowledge of the Materia Medica to its members; and to create a governing body that would be able to politically distance themselves from lay, or unqualified, practitioners. At this time, fate would have another important event happening.
Hahnemann Is Dead!
On July 2, 1843, in the City of Paris, Dr. G.H.G. Jahr was summoned by Madame Hahnemann to the bedside of the failing Dr. Hahnemann. Upon arriving, Jahr found Hahnemann already at his end. Jahr was later to notify the Homoeopathic community in a death notice written by him, which can be found in Volume 24 of the Journal Allgemeine Homoeopathische Zeitung, beginning with the Statement, Hahnemann is Dead!
The news of Hahnemann's death may have been the reason the New York Homoeopathic Physicians Society decided to call a general convention of the practitioners of Homoeopathy throughout the United States in order to adopt a plan by which the art of Homoeopathy should be widely and systematically cultivated. On the 89th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, April 10, 1844, the convention met at the Lyceum of Natural History in the city of New York. Possibly no large body of learned men ever undertook a more apparently hopeless task than those who braced themselves as a resisting army against the really honest objections, or the contemptuous injustice, which were ready to meet their cause at every turn. Their watchword, Similia Similibus Curentur, yet used as a jest among the old school fraternity, was mistranslated, misquoted, purposely misunderstood, and the most erudite and dignified supporter of the New School practice could sometimes deem himself fortunate were he not openly accused of quackery.
Constantine Hering, M.D., of Philadelphia, was chosen president of the convention, and the A.I.H. was established. A major concern troubling the Homoeopathic profession was an increasing loss of control by local societies to govern and set standards for its practitioners. Also, the overall state of public information, respecting the principles and practice of Homoeopathy, was becoming so defective that it was easy for mere pretenders to pass themselves off as qualified practitioners. These pretenders to the art of Homoeopathy took advantage of the increasing popularity of homoeopathy and the concern was that they would discredit the Homoeopathic profession with their malpractice.
In its first year, the A.I.H. placed a focus on adding the known homeopathic materia medica. Out of this effort three remedies were tested by the membership during the following months: Oxalic acid, Podophyllum peltatum, and Kalmia latifolia
During its second year, the A.I.H. efforts turned to organization matters: a constitution, written by-laws and the formation of a committee with the approved criteria for accepting new members into the organization; these criteria included a requirement that applicants also have passed a regular course of medical studies according to the requirements of existing medical institutions. The Institute also set in motion a plan for publishing its proceedings.
At its third annual meeting (1846), one hundred and forty-four members were in attendance from many of the states and territories then comprising the United States. The first volume of the A.I.H. Transactions was published which included the provings and symptoms of the three above remedies, as well as a repertorium of the different symptoms and remedies. An address was approved to be distributed to Homeopathic physicians throughout the country, exhorting members to join more earnestly in the work of the A.I.H., recommending the formation and support of Local Bureaus; this also spoke very encouragingly of the work of the past, but looked forward to a far greater improvement in the future, praising the interest which very many had taken in the objectives of the association.
The American Institute of Homoeopathy, in its first three years, had established itself not only as the first national professional medical society, but as an organization becoming more integrated into the fabric of American medicine. It has continued to meet annually, and has promoted the formation of local bureaus. The A.I.H. also became an international organization, and voted as early as its fourth session in 1847, to grant membership to its first Canadian physician. Within the next 30 to 40 years, particularly through the strength of the A.I.H., Homoeopathy would reach its greatest medical political influence. At this point, several thousand physicians had become members of the A.I.H., and many received handsome fees for their services.
Women also played a major role in the growth of Homoeopathy in America. Mothers were favorably impressed by its treatment of childhood illness and disease. Many homes employed Homoeopaths to treat their children while the adults remained under allopathic care. The A.I.H. voted in 1869 to admit women physicians to membership. Several allopathic societies, such as the Washington, D.C. Medical Society, did not accept their first woman member until 1888.
The importance that the A.I.H. placed on medical education was seen in its promotion of medical schools and hospitals. The Homoeopathic profession founded some of the first teaching hospitals with Hahnemann College in Philadelphia, and the New York Homoeopathic Medical College in New York City.
Under the auspices of the A.I.H. a monument was erected in Washington, D.C., and dedicated on June 21, 1900 in the presence of the President of the United States, William McKinley. The monument to Samuel Hahnemann was the first ever dedicated to a physician in Washington, D.C. and bears the following inscription:
Christian Frederick Samuel Hahnemann
Doctor in Medicine
Leader of the Great Medical Reformation
of the Nineteenth Century,
Founder of the
The American Institute of Homoeopathy, through its 175 years as a medical society, has truly played an integral role in American medical history. The A.I.H. was founded in 1844 to promote and develop a vehicle for pharmaceutical information for physicians who took on the practice of Homoeopathic medicine. It continues that tradition today.
The preceding has been adapted from a longer version available here.