Sue Young Histories

John Weir 1879 - 1971

June 21, 2008

Sir John Weir, GCVO, Royal Victorian Chain 1879 – 1971 MB ChB Glasgow 1907, FFHom 1943, Physician Royal to several twentieth century monarchs. The very first homeopath by Royal appointment was Frederick Hervey Foster Quin. John Weir was the first modern homeopath by Royal appointment, from 1918 onwards, with the title becoming official in 1936, there has been a homeopath by Royal appointment to the monarch since that date.

John Weir was Consultant Physician at the London Homeopathic Hospital in 1910, and he was appointed the Compton Burnett Professor of Materia Medica in

  1. He was President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1923.

Weir was homeopath to seven monarchs, Physician Royal to George V, Gustaf V of Sweden, Edward VII, Edward VIII, George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, and Haakon VII of Norway (who awarded him the Knight Grand Cross of St.
OlavKnight Grand Cross of St. Olav in 1939 (Jonathan Davidson, A Century of Homeopaths Their Influence on Medicine and Health, (Springer Science & Business Media, 22 Mar 2014). Page 158 footnote: 19 Sir John Weir, G.C.V.O., M.B., Ch. B. Obituary. BMJ. 1971; 1:282–3)).

Weir was also a close friend of Almroth Edward Wright.

The Missionary School of Medicine at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital teaching staff included doctors experienced in tropical medicine and other specialities.

The Annual Reports list the teaching staff, many of whom are recognised for their contributions to the development of homeopathy. Donald MacDonald Foubister lectured on Children’s Diseases, as did Kathleen Priestman (who was President of the MSM between 1981 and 1991); Alva Benjamin taught on skin diseases, Charles Edwin Wheeler, John MacKillop and Muriel Francis Adams on general medicine; William Eldon Tucker and Philip Norman Cutner on surgery and H Dodd, who was the vascular surgeon and later became President of MSM in 1952.

N E Gillham taught dentistry and J N LeRossignol chiropody. Three doctors on the teaching staff were later appointed Royal physicians: John Weir, Marjorie Blackie and R W Davey. Llewelyn Ralph Twentyman remains the doyen of them all, surviving to tell the tale of the lectures often given in the Hospital Board Room, which were much enjoyed by everyone.

Sir John Weir had an amazing career with many distinguished accomplishments. These included being physician to the Royal family in London, President of the British Homoeopathic Congress, and Compton Burnett Professor of Materia Medica.

Weir used the Henry Tyler Scholarship to spend six months at the Hering Homoeopathic College in Chicago, where Dr. James Tyler Kent and Dr. Timoth Field Allen were the lecturers in materia medica.

Weir came back from America, convinced that James Tyler Kent was the greatest exponent of Samuel Hahnemann in his day, but he had to face the prejudice and bias of the British Journal of Homeopathy which viewed James Tyler Kent’s Materia Medica as unsuitable.

The controversy raged around low vs. high dose prescribing, as low potency pathological prescribing was usual in Britain until shortly before the World War I.

The Editors of the British Homeopathic Journal advised Hughes’s Pharmacodynamics for the beginner, but Weir persisted in giving enquirers James Tyler Kent’s _Materia Medica_.

Weir defended the use of James Tyler Kents’ Repertory, which had been his constant companion ever since he returned from Chicago. Weir emphasized the constant reading that was required to know the materia medica, and recommended reading a drug a day, preferably in different books to get a comprehensive picture.

Just before the outbreak of World War I, Weir contributed a paper to the British Homoeopathic Congress, insisting on the necessity of the single drug, single dose, and initial aggravation. He insisted there must be no interference with the reaction. In compliance with his single dose theory, Weir used high dose prescribing.

Opposition to Weirs teachings was strong. In July 1917, a census was taken of the drugs prescribed at the London Homeopathic Hospital during that month; of 1664 prescriptions, only 39 were of potencies above the 200. In 1911, Weir was appointed Compton Burnett Professor of Materia Medica. His lectures were to be on the subject of homeopathic prescribing and he continued to give this course of lectures every year until 1960.

It was in this year too, that Weir was appointed Assistant Physician to the London Homeopathic Hospital with opportunities for teaching in outpatient settings and on the wards.

As well as promoting high dose prescribing, Weir promoted homeopathy to allopathic physicians. Appointed K.C.V.O. in 1932, Sir John Weir invaded the Royal Society of Medicine, to read a paper on ’Homoeopathy, an explanation of its principles.’

Born in Paisley Renfrewshire Scotland, Dr Weir was to become Physician Royal to George V, Edward VII, Edward VIII, George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, and Haakon VII of Norway, whose wife Queen Maud of Norway (1869-1938) was the youngest daughter of Edward VII (1841-1910).

Weir received his medical education first at Glasgow University MB ChB 1907, and then on a sabbatical year in Chicago under the tutelage of Dr James Tyler Kent of Hering Medical College during 1908-9, along with Harold Fergie Woods and Douglas Morris Borland.

Weir reputedly first learned of homeopathy through his contact with Dr Robert Gibson Miller (1862-1919) head of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, who had an important influence on the future Physician Royal, who he treated for boils and converted to homeopathy. “It was Dr Robert Gibson Miller who advised Sir John Weir to go to the USA.” This influence tended to get passed on: Douglas Medlicott Gibson “became interested in homeopathy in 1936 through a meeting with Sir John Weir”.

Weir spoke on homeopathy before the Royal Society of Medicine in 1932, and was knighted by George V that same year. The renovated Manchester Homoeopathic Institute and Dispensary was opened in Oxford Street by Sir John Weir in May 1939.

Weir said in an address: “homeopathy…is no religion, no sect, no fad, no humbug…remedies do not act directly on disease; they merely stimulate the vital reactions of the patient, and this causes him to cure himself.” [Sir John Weir, 1931, 200-201]

Having advanced through all levels of the Royal Victorian Order he was, as a rare distinction, awarded the Royal Victorian Chain in 1947, possibly as a mark of the medical care he gave to the ailing King George VI.

John Weir was also the homeopath of Queen Elizabeth II.

Julian Winston, in his excellent Faces of Homeopathy [describes how he ‘prescribed Ignatia for five kings and three queens

John Weir wrote Some of the Outstanding Homeopathic Remedies for Acute Conditions with Margaret Tyler, Homeopathy and its Importance in Treatment of Chronic Disease, The Trend of Modern Medicine, The Science and Art of Homeopathy, Brit Homeo Jnl, The Present Day Attitude of the Medical Profession Towards Homeopathy, Brit Homeo Jnl XVI, 1926, p.212ff, Homeopathy: a System of Therapeutics, The Hahnemann Convalescent Home, Bournemouth, Brit Homeo Jnl 20, 1931, 200-201, Homeopathy an Explanation of its Principles, British Homeopathy During the Last 100 Years, Brit Homeo Jnl 23, 1932: II, pp.603-5, Samuel Hahnemann and his Influence on Medical Thought, Trans. Roy. Soc. Med., Hahnemann on Homeopathic Philosophy, Dr _Margaret Tyler Obituary, Brit. Homeo. Jnl 33, 1943, 92-93, Presidential Address, Brit Homeo Jnl 34 1944, p.8, Presidential Report Brit Homeo Jnl 34, 1944, p.194, Examination Results Brit Homeo Jnl 34, 1944, p.195._


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