Sue Young Histories

Robert Gibson Miller 1862 - 1919

February 09, 2008

Robert Gibson Miller
1862-1919Robert Gibson Miller 1862 - 1919 was an Englishman born in Kent in 1862, and was educated at Blair Lodge and the University of Glasgow, where he graduated in medicine in 1884. An orthodox doctor who converted to homeopathy, Robert travelled to St. Louis to train with James Tyler Kent and on his return, he founded the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. His books and ideas are still very influential today for modern homeopaths.

Gibson Miller was a colleague of Howard Henderson Patrick,

From Early in his career he was attracted to the study of Homoeopathy, and with the object of testing the claims made for this system of medicine he undertook a visit to America. As a result of his investigations there Dr. Miller was convinced of the soundness of the homoeopathic theory.

On his return to this country he became one of its most enthusiastic advocates, and gave his active support to schemes promoted with a view to extending its practice. One of the enterprises with which Dr. Miller, along with other medical and lay supporters of the movement, was identified, was the dispensary in Berkeley Street, opened in 1909 for the medical treatment of the poor in accordance with the homeopathic principle. Later a fund was started for the establishment in Glasgow of the Houldsworth Homoeopathic Hospital, on the honorary staff of which Dr. Miller was a leading member.

He belonged to a family long associated with Paisley and Glasgow. His grandfather and father were merchants in the city. His father, who was at one time Provost of Hillhead, when it was a separate burgh, took a prominent part in public affairs, and was one of the promoters of the scheme for the establishment of the Botanic Gardens as a public institution.

as a proselytising agent (Robert) was second to none. Both directly and indirectly present-day Homoeopathy owes him an enormous debt. He had a big fight to uphold Homoeopathy in Glasgow, but his later years were greatly cheered by the large number of doctors and medical students he was able to convert. His greatest joy was to add another man to the ranks of homoeopathists.

From (With thanks to Peter MorrellThe Kentian influence also came to these shores with Dr. Robert Gibson Miller [1862-1919] in Glasgow, who studied with James Tyler Kent in 1884 in St Louis.

He in turn began to influence UK practice chiefly in Scotland, from where the ‘high potency habit’ formed a separate and parallel strand to that centred mainly in Liverpool with John James Drysdale and Edward William Berridge. Gibson Miller published his ideas in 3 small works: Elements of Homeopathy, Relationships of Remedies and A Synopsis of Homeopathic Philosophy.

Very little is known, as yet, about how and why Gibson Miller went to see James Tyler Kent in the first place, or how his visit was financed. There might also have been a link, a suggestion maybe from Edward William Berridge in Liverpool, and Thomas Skinner, of course, who had strong links there since 1875.

It may have occurred because UK homeopathy was declining, and that they were ‘fishing around’ for new ideas and direction. They clearly felt that in terms of new homeopathic initiatives, the USA was the place to look. Yet the ‘old guard’ who controlled UK homeopathy at that time were deeply sceptical of high potencies and very resistant to change [see Marjorie Blackie, 1996, p.561-2; and Bodman, 1971].

The ‘old guard’ mainly comprised Richard Hughes, Robert Ellis Dudgeon and David Dyce Brown, who dismissed the high potencies as laughable.

This aspect also raises another question about the links between 19th century Scottish and English homeopathy which I have not really explored. How much did Gibson Miller disseminate his newly-acquired skills to other UK doctors?

Another question is how much he also disseminated his new ideas to the medically unqualified? As we have seen with Clarke, much of the basis for even teaching lay persons the rudiments of homeopathic prescribing was a response to its continued decline. It would be useful to know, therefore, if Gibson Miller did the same in Scotland and for similar reasons.

Gibson Miller travelled from Scotland to St. Louis and ‘brought the beginnings of Kentian Homeopathy back to Britain.’ [Gibson Miller’s Obituary, BHJ 9, 1919, p.107; also Winston, 1999, pp.200-201]

"Gibson Miller was the founder of all Glasgow homeopathy, well disposed towards the laity, lost a son in the Great War [1916] and he died of cancer soon after.

He never recovered from the loss of his son… he was tall and scraggy, a typical Carcinosin type, as John Paterson used to say. He was associated with Edward William Berridge, Thomas Skinner and James Young Simpson of anaesthetic fame. Miller, like Thomas Skinner, used high potencies, while Robert Thomas Cooper used low and Clarke used mixed.” [John Pert, 1991, former chief pharmacist at Nelson’s in a telephone conversation]

Miller was also an important influence on the future Physician Royal, Sir John Weir, who he treated for boils and converted to homeopathy [see Bodman’s Weir Obituary in BHJ, 1971]. (With thanks to Peter Morrell)

Robert Gibson Miller was a Glasgow graduate who was deeply influenced by the homeopathic principles taught by Dr. James Tyler Kent, with whom he worked in the United States.

On his return to Glasgow he became the leading exponent of Homeopathy in the city. His views were fiercely contested by the medical establishment but success came with the establishment of the Houldsworth Homeopathic Hospital and growing interest in his methods.

At the Quinquennial International Homoeopathic Congress held in London in 1911, Gibson Miller was chosen Chairman of the Section of the Science and Art of Homoeopathy.

Robert’s son Lieutenant Kenneth Steven Miller 4th Cameronians - Scottish Rifles Kenneth Miller was a promising medical student in 1914 when he took a commission with the 4th Scottish Rifles and went to fight in Flanders.

Born in Glasgow at the family home at 10 Newton Place, he would have been expected to carry on the tradition of public service for which his father and grandfather were well known.

His grandfather was a former Provost of Hillhead, who had worked hard to promote the Botanic Gardens as a public institution.

His father was a famous, often controversial physician.

On 1st August 1917, however, he was posted missing. This was in the early days of the Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele as it became known. He was one of 70,000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force, who died during a four month battle which was counted a technical success, but which saw its territorial gains eroded over the next few months.

Passchendaele became a symbol of the pity and futility of war for a generation.

In the new year, Kenneth’s family received a circular from the University to inform them of the army’s decision to release medical students who had passed the subjects of their First Professional Exam and return them to their studies. Young men in this position would be of more use to their country trained as doctors.

It was too late for Kenneth, however, and his father replied on 15th February 1918, that his son

‘I am sorry to say has been missing since August 1st 1917.’

Lieutenant Kenneth Steven Miller is commemorated at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. By the time the memorial was in place he was described as the son of Mrs Margaret Miller of 12 Parkgrove Terrace, Glasgow.

Dr. Gibson Miller died of cancer in 1919, having spent his last years working punishing long hours and mourning the loss of his son.

It may truthfully be said that he died a martyr to his profession. Against all advice, though he might well have claimed an easier time as a consultant, he continued to see large numbers of patients in very moderate circumstances.

He keenly felt that it was his duty to give the benefit of homoeopathic treatment to the greatest number. (He was one of those who had toiled much and not been paid profusely, for he chose to work himself to death for such minimal fees as placed his services within the reach of the poor.)

Here we see the true man, and there is no doubt that this great strain, combined with the awful anxiety for his sons during the war-one killed and two prisoners hastened his end… Of his three sons, one was missing, and has never since been heard of, while the other two became prisoners in Germany. And although the prisoners came home…

Dr. Miller is survived by his wife (a daughter of the late Mr. Peter Steven), two sons, and a daughter. A son was killed in the war. Dr. Miller took an active part in church affairs, and for twenty-six years was a member of the session of Claremont Church.

Robert Gibson Miller wrote Studies of Homeopathic Remedies, Dr. R. Gibson Miller’s Relationship of Remedies, On the Comparative Value of Symptoms in the Selection of the Remedy, Comparative Value of Symptoms in the Selection of the Remedy, Dr. R. Gibson Miller’s Relationship of Remedies: With Approximate Duration … , Arzneibeziehungen, Relationship of Remedies and Sides of the Body, A Synopsis of Homoeopathic Philosophy, Elements of Homeopathy, A Synopsis of Homeopathic Philosophy, Gibson Miller’s Hot and Cold Remedies _in James Tyler Kent’s _Use of the Repertory_ and in _British Homeopathic Journal vol. LXI January 1972 by R A F Jack.


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