Sue Young Histories

Charles Ransford 1813 - 1870

October 26, 2008

Charles Ransford 1813? - 1870? MD LRCS Edin. 1833, FRCP Edin. 1853, was a British orthodox physician, Examiner and Treasurer of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, Physician to the Edinburgh Western and Royal Dispensary, Extraordinary Member and President of the Royal Medical Society in Edinburgh, Member of the Haveian Society, Secretary of the Edinburgh Obstetric Society, who converted to homeopathy to become Physician at the York Homeopathic DispensaryMember of The Northern Homeopathic Association.

Charles Ransford practiced at 22 Bootham, York in 1851.

In 1859, Charles Ransford urged his fellow homeopaths to take advantage of The Medical Act and join the London College of Physicians.

Charles Ransford graduated at Edinburgh in 1833. He became FRCPE in 1835 and in that institution was appointed treasurer and an examiner.

His career continued for some time to be orthodox and conventional; he was a President of the Royal Medical Society, Secretary of the Obstetrical Society of Edinburgh, and he published papers on allopathic medicine in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal.

Later, he became physician at St Cross Hospital in Winchester, embraced homeopathy enthusiastically and defended it vigorously…

In 1851, the College came to the realisation that not only a Fellow but a former Treasurer (Charles Ransford) ‘had professed himself a homeopathist’ and settled in a English city.

With James Young Simpson, as President, in the chair a resolution was presented by Professor Christison which included the following:

‘The College expresses severe regret that a Fellow should have been led to take a step so fatal to his reputation in the College and to his character as a scientific physician and instructs the Secretary to transmit to him a copy of the resolution trusting that this may lead him to withdraw from the College.’

Letters were sent to both Charles Ransford and William Henderson. William Henderson, clearly angered by this, replied at length and in unrestrained language.

‘Some parts of these resolutions are so intemperate and insulting as to be discreditable to the body from which they emanate; and though you take pains to inform me that the resolutions, as they stand, were unanimously adopted by the College, I shall do some of the Fellows the justice to believe that they have so much good sense and gentlemanly feeling as to be incapable of impugning the honour of anyone because he differs from them in the choice or dose of a drug.’

Neither Charles Ransford nor William Henderson withdrew from the College, which took no further action and their names remain on the College List of Fellows to this day.

Another Edinburgh medical institution then entered the fray, but with an unsurprisingly familiar dramatis personae. The Edinburgh Medico Chirurgical Society was addressed by James Young Simpson, the text being published subsequently in the monthly Journal of Medical Science and as a pamphlet.

In this he castigated homeopathy as ‘a system of consummate charlatanry’. He bracketed it with Mormonism as a form of heresy; the Christian community was justified in expelling Mormons and the medical community was similarly justified in expelling homeopathists.

Later, the Edinburgh Medico Chirurgical Society approved a motion (proposed by Professor Syme and seconded by James Young Simpson) ‘that William Henderson’s name be deleted from the list of members’.

At the same meeting, in a night of the long knives, William MacDonald, William MacLeod and Charles Ransford were also expelled.

Charles Ransford wrote Reasons for Embracing Homeopathy, The Battle of the DoctorsThe Battle of the Doctors, Or, Homeopathy and Allopathy in 1851, The Prevention and Treatment of Scarlatina, The Pathogenic Symptoms of Mercurius, and many journal articles and cases, including  Biographical Sketch of Robert Graham, On carbonate of Ammonia in the Urea, On the Cantharides on Bronchitis.