Homeopathy in the Irish Potato Famine
This book began as a lecture given at the Irish Homeopathic Conference on 1 July 1995 at University College Galway. My talk aroused much interest and emotion. 1995 was the chosen year for the 150th anniversary commemoration of the potato famine in Ireland. Homeopaths were as much involved in the coming to terms with the past as the rest of the population. I decided to respond and develop my ideas and sources into a book.
- Author: Francis Treuherz
- ISBN: 9788131911884
- 198 pages
- Printed in India
Homoeopathy in the Irish Potato Famine by Francis Treuherz, Samuel Press, London, 1995. 138 pages, paperback, Reviewed by Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D.
To the rather slender library of books on the history of British and UK homeopathy has now been added an engaging collection of materials assembled and introduced by Francis Treuherz, whom we know well as the long-time editor of The Homoeopath. While Homoeopathy in the Irish Potato Famine is principally about this tragedy in Irish history, when in 1845-1847 Ireland lost 2.5 million people from the famine and the accompanying emigration to Boston Massachusetts, and other North American cities, the author gives us much more.
A major theme is the proving of Solanum tuberosum aegrotans, the nosode of the Potato rot, by the French homeopath, Benoit Mure in 1849. He suggested that the remedy for potato rot be found by proving it on humans; the resulting pathogenesis indicated that the potato be preserved from rot by insertion of homeopathic Arsenicum or Bryonia, or the potato rot nosode itself, prior to planting. C. J. Hempel's 1854 translation of Mure's essay is reproduced in full and is supplemented by the proving of Solanum tuberosum aegrotans recorded in John Henry Clarke's Dictionary.
There follow two original writings on the Irish potato famine by the English-trained Irish homeopath, Joseph Kidd (1824-1918), and a biographical essay on Joseph Kidd by his descendent, Walter Kidd. Kidd was born in Limerick in 1824 and studied homeopathy in London under Paul Francois Curie, grandfather of Pierre Curie. In 1847, horrified by the potato famine, he went back to Ireland for several months to treat the associated fever and dysentery. He then returned to London and pursued a successful practice for many decades, retiring only in 1914. His most distinguished patient was Prime Minister Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield), whom he treated from 1878 until his death in 1881. Kidd's account makes fascinating homeopathic reading and has, indeed, become a biographical classic.
This poignant collection of materials about the "great hunger" not only enlightens us about a dark page in Ireland's history, but also fills some of the gaps in our own incomplete and imperfect picture of Irish homeopathy. As such, it should bring us all into closer relations with our Irish colleagues. Having myself recently met the charming Nuala Eising, Principal of the Burren School of Homoeopathy, and heard what she and other Irish homeopaths have been doing to bring our medical truths to the Eastern outlands (in her case, the Republic of Belarus), I know that we in the US. would all benefit from a better acquaintance with homeopathy in the Emerald Isle. For this we owe a vote of sincere thanks to Fran Treuherz.
This book review is reprinted from the British Homoeopathic Journal Vol 86, January 1997, with permission from Peter Fisher, Editor.
Homoeopathy in the Irish Potato Famine. Francis Treuherz. London: Samuel Press 1995. 138 pages, paperback.
Homeopathes sans Frontieres must be proud of the central figure of this book - one Dr Joseph Kidd, born in Limerick, who at the tender age of 23 single-handedly set up a homoeopathic clinic in Bantry, County Cork in 1847, at the height of the Great Famine in Ireland. Dr Kidd's own accounts of his mission from London-supported by the English Homoeopathic Association - forms the central part of this book, and his homoeopathic treatment of the victims of typhus, continued fever and dysentery are recorded complete with a detailed audit of outcome, e.g. Typhus - 111 cases - Mortality 1.8% -Bantry Hospital Mortality 13.5% Dysentery - 81 cases - Mortality 14% - Bantry Hospital Mortality 36%.
These figures and the detailed accounts of individual cases should ensure Dr Joseph Kidd's place among the classic pioneers of the use of homoeopathy in epidemic disease. The homoeopathic medicines mentioned seem awesome in their simplicity: Aconitum, Arsenicum, Belladonna, Bryonia, China, Mercurius, Nux vomica, Phosphorus, Rhus toxicodendron, Secale, Sulphur and Veratrum. Interestingly, the potencies included the 3rd, 5th and 12th.
In later life Kidd resigned from the Homoeopathic Society over the potency issue, opting for 'Hahnemann "sober", teaching the use of the pure undiluted tinctures' over 'Hahnemann "drunk" with mysticism calling for the exclusive use of infinitesimal doses'.
This book provides an easy way in to a very fraught chapter in the history of these islands, revolving around the failure of the potato crop due to blight in 1845-1847.
On the island of Ireland, the effects were cataclysmic. A holocaust/watershed experience ensued, with cultural and political repercussions down to today. In the England of the time, the official response was influenced by anti-Catholic sentiment which saw merit in the death of a benighted Papish culture, and also by laissez-faire economic ideologues who were wary of anything that might interfere with the freedom of the market. The unofficial response was much more humane and various forms of relief and food aid were initiated in England, Europe and North America.
Dr Kidd's own project received support in the form of rice and other foods from an alliance of Quakers and Jews. It is heartening to learn that the English Homoeopathic Association supported and sponsored the mission to Bantry, and yet it lasted a total of only 67 days in all. Was consideration given to the dispatch of other missions? Or was it felt that one was enough?
Benoit Mure (1809-1858) was an adventurous French homoeopath whose proving of Solanum tuberosum aegrotans (the diseased potato) is reproduced here, along with his fascinating advocacy of an isopathic inoculation of the potato as a form of prophylaxis against the blight. Related information is included from Clarke's Materia Medica, Roberts and Ward's Sensations As If and The Complete Repertory (with thematic repertory summaries by Michael Thompson).
Dr Kidd's own account of his role in the management of the last illness of the Earl of Beaconsfield-Benjamin Disraeli, is also here, along with well-reproduced illustrations and portraits. I was left with a new sense of perspective on the historical development of homoeopathy which is not often conveyed by our current course structures.
Finally, the book is another milestone in the career of Francis Treuherz, confirming his place as a member of that valuable species: the homoeopathic scholar. May he write again soon! - Brian F Kennedy