Sue Young Histories

Samuel Swan 1814 - 1893

January 22, 2008

samuel swanSamuel Swan 1814 - 1893 In 1874, Swan, a New York homeopath, triturated, with sugar of milk, the sputum of a tubercular patient, and called it Tuberculinum. In 1842, Swan made the first preparation of Medorrinum.

Swan also potentised cholesterinum and pyrogenium and is said to have proved Lac Defloratum and also Syphilinum. He published a Materia Medica, developed Lyssin from saliva of a rabid dog and proved Lueticum (Syphilinum) in 1880, Anthracinum and Tuberculinum bovinum and magnet.

Swan was one of the pioneers at the forefront of the development of the higher centesimal potencies and of investigating their clinical use.

Samuel Swan was born July 4, 1814 in Medford, Massachusetts. Shortly before the Civil War he moved to Montgomery, Alabama to improve his health and pursue his mercantile interests.

There he became acquainted with pioneer homeopath, Dr. G. A. Ulrich, with whom he studied homeopathy. During a yellow fever epidemic, all physicians except Ulrich fled the city. With Swan’s assistance, Dr.Ulrich successfully treated many cases of the disease.

Soon afterwards, Swan returned north and enrolled in the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, studying under Constantine Hering, Adolph Lippe, and Henry Newell Guernsey. He graduated in 1866 and moved to New York City.

There he was associated with Edward Bayard for five years, after which he established his own practice.

Dr. Swan became a member of the International Hahnemannian Association (IHA) in 1881, but his interest in and use of nosodes and preparation of extremely high potencies estranged him from some members of that body.

Though having studied under the foremost homeopaths and having mastered the application of the principles of the Organon and the Chronic Diseases, Swan strove to improve the practice of homeopathy. His work was condemned by some as isopathic, empiric, and antidotal, at best. Forthwith, he resigned from the IHA in 1887.

Denying isopathic relation to his work, Swan declared that all poisons show individuality in their effects, which are unchangeable, but somewhat modified by the idiosyncrasy of the individual. The causes of disease in Nature, sporadic or epidemic, be their source spores, microbes or germs, produce objective symptoms which would indicate a certain disease such as cholera, measles, etc.

He further stated that the poison that caused the disease in the healthy would be inherent in the products of said disease, and would cure similar symptoms in the diseased individual. Thus, these poisons were the most fully proven, as their effects were in the literature of all schools as the pathogenesis of diseases such as measles and diphtheria.

"Here we have the proving ready made for us, in healthy persons. Carefully collate all the symptoms of measles on healthy people, and you have the pathogenetic effect of that poison, and when you have found such in the sick, administer the potentized saliva or poison, which for want of a better name we shall call [Morbillinum](, and you cure the effects of that poison."

Dr. Swan further asserted that the poison is not isopathic, but when potentized, is an antidote to the crude poison - not an idem, but similar, thus homeopathic. He cites the Organon, footnote 59 to par. 156 (p. 194, 5th. ed., Wesselhoeft trans.). Swan, in summary, states “…a morbific poison will cure the disease which produces it, if given in a high potency.”

Swan’s resulting list of prepared morbific products, nosodes, single remedies and several compound remedies contained about 1000 items, a number of which were proven and accepted nosodes which he had introduced. The most notable of these are Syphilinum and Tuberculinum (10 years before Robert Koch).

Other potencies of combinations and ‘imponderables’ brought ridicule and antagonism from such men as E.J. Lee, MD, editor of The Homeopathic Physician, who attacked Swan for affixing the seal of The International Hahnemannian Association on the published list, therefore implying the endorsement of the latter. Lee accused Swan of advocating empiric methods and nonsense, labeling him a Don Quixote

Despite the real or apparent damage done to homeopathy at the time by his alleged isopathic methods, these valuable nosodes, when proven by himself and others, became invaluable medicines in the materia medica.

Dr. Swan’s work with high potencies continued until he was severely poisoned by preparing potencies of a Japanese varnish, which eventually led to his death three years later in 1893.

Swan’s contributions to the literature (including provings) are to be found in Medical Advance, Organon, Homeopathic Physician, and IHA Transactions. In 1886 Swan published his Catalog of Morbific Products, Nosodes, and Other Remedies, in High Potencies.

A Materia Medica, containing Provings and Clinical Verifications of Nosodes and Morbific Products was published in 1888. Among the remedies that Dr. Swan introduced and/or proved were: Syphilinum, Vaccininum, Variolinum, Tuberculinum, and Chloral hydrate (Choralum).

In an anonymous memorial it was stated that Swan was considered a crank by many for his views and practice, but “like Hahnemann, was at least 50 years in advance of the majority of his homeopathic brethren. ”

Dr. Swan was born July 4, 1814 in Medford, Massachusetts. In the early part of his life he was engaged in the mercantile business, and some time in the fifties went to Montgomery, Alabama, to live, on account of his health; here he made a fortune, and made his first experiments with medicine.

Dr. Swan’s uncle was one of the first homeopathic physicians who settled in New England, if not the first, and the young man was always more or less interested in homeopathy and took with him a case of homeopathic medicines to his new home in the south.

Just before the outbreak of the rebellion an epidemic of yellow fever drove all of the Montgomery doctors out of the city, with the exception of one homeopath, who, with the assistance of Dr. Swan, treated with remarkable success a large number of patients. This interested the doctor so much in medicine that he resolved to come north, take a regular course, and graduate, which he did in 1866, in Philadelphia.

“Dr. Swan at this time was intimately associated for two or three years with Dr. Henry Newell Guernsey, and, after graduating, came to New York, and was associated with Dr. Edward Bayard for five years, and was engaged in the practice of medicine in New York from 1866 to the present time, 27 years.

“Until within the last few years he had a very large and high-class practice. His enthusiasm for nosodes and the extreme high potencies separated him more or less from some of our profession, still I doubt if any physician in New York has ever been regarded by his professional brethren with warmer feelings of regard than Dr. Swan.

“He leaves behind him a host of friends and patients to lament his kindly, genial ways. The marked trait of Dr. Swan’s character was his great generosity; whatever was his, was his friends’.

He was absolutely without suspicion; a very hard worker; he always did his best, and believed that every other man did the same. With a single exception I have never heard him speak unkindly of any one, or speak of any one, with this exception, as ever having done him an intentional harm.

Dr. Swan leaves a widow and two grown-up children.

He was continually experimenting, endeavoring in his way to improve the practice of homeopathy, to enlighten some of the darkness of his professional brethren, and to cure some of the diseases now universally considered incurable.

In this, like Samuel Hahnemann, he builded wiser than he knew. Like Hahnemann, he was at least half a century in advance of the majority of his homeopathic brethren. Few men in our school had so thoroughly mastered the Organon and Chronic Diseases as Dr. Swan, and few knew better than he how to apply their principles in the cure of the sick.

Much of his teachings appeared new and strange to the majority, because to the majority the principles and teachings of the master were new and practically unknown. He discovered and prepared Tuberculinum, so that it could be safely and successfully used in the cure of the sick twenty years (!actually 10 years before) before Robert Koch ever dreamed of it. It has saved many valuable lives, and will save many more in the future.

In this devotion to principle and singleness of purpose, like Samuel Hahnemann, Constantine Hering, Galileo, Columbus, Harvey, and many others, he was an enthusiast. But every homeopath should rejoice that the profession has had such enthusiasts. We are reaping the harvest their zeal and industry and courage have shown.

Swan also potentised ‘blue ray of the sun’ and other strange things.

Swan wrote a Materia Medica, edited the Organon Journal with Adolph Lippe, Thomas Skinner and Edward William Berridge in 1878- 1881. Julian Winston, in his The Heritage of Homeopathic Literature, writes:

“In the three years of publication, this Journal contained more valuable information than almost all of the others combined. Every issue has cases or commentary by Lippe. Several of Swan’s provings appear within the pages.

Swan wrote a proving of Ovi Gallina Pellicula

About three years ago (1890) he began a series of experiments with some kind of Japanese varnish, and while engaged in preparing the potencies of the substance he was severely poisoned, from which he never fully recovered.

He was confined to his bed for about six weeks with a severe bronchial cough, under which he gradually sank. He died without suffering, in the same peaceful way in which he lived.

IN MEMORIAL — DR. SAMUEL SWAN The Homoeopathic Physician, November 1893, pages 557-559

The homeopathic profession will read with surprise this announcement of the death of Dr. Samuel Swan, of New York, so widely known in connection with the numerous remedies of the nosode class which he has from time to time introduced to professional notice.

He died on Wednesday the 18th of October, at ten o’clock in the morning. Dr. Swan had been unwell for several months and had relaxed his usual active work and had lost much of his interest in the events of the profession owing to the prostration that his illness had caused.

In May last he wrote:

"I have been sick for the last two months and am now so weak I can't attend to patients, who very considerately keep away from me. I have been too sick to pay attention to anything."

Later he retired to his bed never to rise again. He was well aware his end was approaching and expressed a wish to die. He was fully conscious to the last, but had lost the use of his voice and was finally unable through weakness even to write what he wished to say.

Dr. Swan was born at Medford, Mass., July 4th, 1815. He was therefore seventy-eight years old at the time of his death.

The first half of his life was spent in active business pursuits, which he was finally compelled to relinquish on account of ill health. He then went South in the company of his devoted wife, and there met Dr. Uhlrick through whom he became interested in medicine, and under whose direction he studied it.

He then returned to the North, entered as a student in the Homoeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, now merged in Hahnemann Medical College, and graduated in

  1. His diploma bears the signatures of such distinguished men as Adolph Lippe, Constantine Hering, and Henry Newell Guernsey.

He settled in New York, and went into the active practice of medicine, which he continued until incapacitated by the illness of the last few months. The first five years of his medical career were spent almost entirely in gratuitous practice.

He was a kind man and none who appealed to him for aid ever went away unsatisfied. The grateful memories that cluster about his name amply testify to his deeds of good-will and benevolence.

The writer of this sketch himself owes Dr. Swan a large debt of gratitude for valuable professional services rendered to his mother under the following circumstances: The patient had been suffering for years the most excruciating agony from headache. The pain was so violent as to cause loud screaming and a desire to run wildly from one room to another. No remedies prescribed seemed to have any effect, and there seemed to be no hope of procuring relief.

In June of 1876, Dr. Adolph Lippe gave a dinner party at which were assembled Dr. Edward Bayard, Dr. Henry Newell Guernsey, Dr. Constantine Hering, Dr. Samuel Swan, two or three others whose names it is impossible now to recall, and the writer. This case of violent headache was incidentally mentioned to Dr. Swan in the course of a conversation in which experiences had been mutually recounted.

He became much interested and offered to prescribe. A detailed statement of the symptomatology was furnished him, and after two or three remedies had been given with but indifferent success, Lac-felinum was administered. The screaming ceased and the headache slowly disappeared.

The disease energy was driven to the surface with the production of an extremely annoying eruption upon the legs of a decidedly erysipelatous character which has continued from that time. The relief from the intense agony of the headache, however, was as complete as it was remarkable.

In January, 1878, he joined Thomas Skinner then of Liverpool, and now of London, Dr. Adolph Lippe, of Philadelphia, and Edward William Berridge, of London, in the publication of a new journal devoted to pure Homoeopathy. It was called The Organon, and was issued quarterly. It at once took a prominent position in medical journals, and promised to be a great success. It ceased after three years of publication, however, and pure Homoeopathy was without a representative.

It was then that Dr. Adolph Lippe, deploring the loss of the journal, determined to start another journal in its place. The Homoeopathic Physician was thus established and was the successor of The _Organon_. Dr. Swan became much interested in this latest venture and was a frequent contributor to its pages.

Dr. Swan did not confine himself to pure Homoeopathy, and he soon became widely known for his endorsement of Isopathy. This was considered to be an invasion, and a nullification of the doctrine of the law of similars, and it brought upon him a storm of denunciations and criticisms in which this journal sometimes participated.

It would be out of place here to rekindle the fires of that controversy, but without affirming or denying the injurious effect upon Homeopathy that it is claimed to have caused, the one practical result has been the bringing to professional notice of a large number of new and singular remedies.

Among these may be mentioned the various “milks” which were, with one exception, introduced by Dr. Swan. That one exception was Lac-caninum, which was originated by Dr. Reissig; by him communicated to Dr. Bayard, who, in turn, transmitted the information to Dr. Swan.

Dr. Swan introduced Tuberculinum to medicine years before the same remedy was discovered by Robert Koch, of Berlin, who made such a tremendous sensation with it in the ranks of the dominant school.

He also introduced Syphilium, Medorrhinum, and other remedies of like character, now known under the general name of nosodes. The profession were not opposed to the use of these nosodes, but the demand was frequently made that they be proved like the ”polychrests.”

To this Dr. Swan answered that these remedies had already produced provings which could he found in the phenomena and symptoms of the disease of which they were the products. This answer did not satisfy the strictly logical Hahnemannians, and thus a gulf was formed between them and him which has continually widened.

Much more might be said, but space will not permit the elaboration of the subject, and it is accordingly left to other writers to treat as they shall feel inspired.


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