Homeopathic and Allopathic Physicians During the Civil War
(The following are the personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)
During the Civil War, there were two competing camps of medical education: homeopathic and allopathic. The homeopaths believe they could cure disease by administration of varying doses of naturally occurring chemicals or drugs. Their education was significantly different from the alternative and more popular allopathic medicine.
Allopathics were more closely aligned to what we expect from physicians today. They did surgery and were more or less science based than the homeopaths. During the Civil War, the Union Medical Department, which was dominated by allopathic physicians and surgeons had to create evaluation boards to weed out incompetent doctors. Since homeopathic physicians didn't believe in or do surgery, they were religated to rear area care of the injured or eliminated completely from working on injured soldiers.
Medical education before and during the Civil War was not what we expect today. The medical colleges were only two years in length, and knowledge of major surgery was very limited when the doctors graduated. Any doctor with surgical experience was immediately used to perform amputations or any complicated surgery.
Homeopathic medicine still exists today, but only as a fringe element more closely aligned with alternative medicine or health food 'cures'.
The history of homeopathy begins with the discoveries of its founder Samuel Hahnemann (1755 - 1843), a German physician... (homeopathy refers to) the law of similars... Hahnemann was particularly disliked by the apothecaries because he recommended the use of only one medicine at a time and prescribing only limited doses of it... Homeopaths were primarily critical of the suppressive nature of (allopathic) drugs. They felt that they simply masked the person's symptoms, creating deeper, more serious diseases... (Homeopathy) expanded so rapidly that the homeopaths decided to create a national medical society. In 1844 they organized the American Institute of Homeopathy, which became America's first national medical society. Partially in response to the growth of the homeopaths, in 1846 a rival medical group formed which then vowed to slow the development of homeopathy. This organization called itself the American Medical Association." Homeopathy was practiced widely in the Civil War. "It's advocates included WIlliam James, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Daniel Webster, William Seward, Horace Greeley, and Louisa May ALcott. WIlliam Cullen Bryant, the famous journalist, was president of the New York Homeopathic Society." (source: Dana Ullmann, MPH 1991 A Condensed History of Homeopathy from the Homeopathic Educational Services website)
Medical education during and before the Civil War
Medical colleges during and before the Civil War
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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016