Sue Young Histories

Edwin D W Tomkins 1916 - 1992

July 02, 2009

Edwin D W Tomkins 1916 - 1992 was a British research chemist and lay homeopath.

Edwin Tomkins was a student of Percival George Quinton and Otto Leeser, and he was a colleague of J Ellis Barker, John Henry Clarke, Darnell Cooper, Edward W Cotter, John DaMonte, Donald MacDonald Foubister, Arthur Jenner, Thomas Maughan, Noel Puddephatt, Phyllis M Speight, Frank Parker Wood,

Tomkins practiced in Enfield.

From Leslie Speight married the homeopath Phyllis M Rowntree (Speight) in 1952. She was based at Nightingale House, Du Cane Rd, London, W12, until 1964 when she took over Noel Puddephatt’s practice in Devonshire Street, W1). Phyllis married Leslie Speight in 1964.

In the 1930’s a diverse range of assorted lay therapists (mostly homeopaths, herbalists, vegetarians, antivivisectionists, bonesetters, diet therapists, hydrotherapists) became active, including probably 500+ lay homeopaths.

Most towns at that time had a herbalist and a homeopath. Leading figures of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s include Noel Puddephatt, J Ellis Barker, Harold Edgar Tyrwhitt, Leslie J Speight and Phyllis M Speight, Edward W Cotter, Arthur Jenner (born c1916), Frank Parker Wood, Eric F W Powell, George Pettitt, Harry Benjamin (c1890-c1950), Darnell Cooper and Edwin D W Tomkins (1916-1992).

In the meantime John Henry Clarke encouraged and supported the study of homeopathy by those who were non medically qualified. The nature of British Common Law is such that anyone can practice any therapy on humans, but not on animals, as long as they do not claim to be able to cure: cancer, TB, Aids (though homeopathy is used to treat these diseases in many countries around the World not governed by local legistation in the UK). There was and still is no limitation on the practice of homeopathy or any other type of therapy  by the non medically qualified public in Britain.

Encouraged by John Henry Clarke, and later by Donald MacDonald Foubister as well as other doctor members of the Faculty of Homeopathy, lay homeopathy began to gradually grow in strength as the 20th century progressed.

Before, during, and following  WW II the primary active energy input into spreading the knowledge of homeopathic prescribing became centred  in a small but dedicated circle of non doctor homeopathic practitioners. These committed people engaged in home study, attending lectures of doctor homeopaths, and open meetings of the British Homeopathic Association. In turn they held homeopathy classes for interested members of the public.

Among this group were Phyllis M Speight, Edwin Tompkins, John DaMonte, Thomas Maughan, and others.  It is from the germinating efforts of this group that the contemporary Society of Homeopaths ultimately emerged. The vigorous and growing Society of Homeopaths of today is the crest of a wave in an on going ebb and flow of creative development for British homeopathy.

In 1946 a meeting of 300 people interested in homeopathy met at Caxton Hall, around the corner from Buckingham Palace, to form the Incorporated Institute of Homeopaths Ltd, a non doctor organisation. Twenty four years later on the 10th of January 1970 Thomas Maughan, John DaMonte, Edwin Tompkins and others met and formed a Society of Homeopaths. In 1978 the students of Thomas Maughan and John DaMonte, gathered together to found The Society of Homeopaths that become a major organisation for registration and standards of practice for homeopaths in Britain.

As the profession grew in numbers so did the a number of professional registering organisations including the Homeopathic Medical Association and the Association of Registered Homeopaths.

From A very important homeopath of the 40s was Edward Tomkins who still lives and practices in north London, seeing 22 patients a day.’ [Society of Homeopaths Newsletter 10, Jan 1986].       Mention was made of him in an article by Jerome Whitney in Society of Homeopaths Newsletter 10, January 1986.

He gave a talk to the Society of Homeopaths at a meeting at Friends Meeting House London WC2 on Nov. 16 1985. He is important as he ‘kept the torch burning’ for lay homeopaths throughout the years of dearth [1920-70]. He lectured and practised in a small way throughout the 1930s and 1940s in the London area.

On 7 Dec. 1946 along with 6 others [whose names are not recorded] he formed the Incorporated Institute of Homeopaths Ltd and gave a talk about homeopathy at Caxton Hall before an audience of 300-500 [Jerome Whitney 1990, Tomkins, 1990]. This organisation lapsed after c.12 years. The books were then returned to the Board of Trade and the company ‘wound up’ [Tomkins, 1990].

However, according to Tomkins, lay homeopaths were again thrown into a “state of crisis” [Jerome Whitney 1986] by the Medicines Act [1968]. As a direct result, a Society of Homeopaths was established at a meeting 10-1-70 including “And a red haired chap called Edward Tomkins” [Wilcox], John DaMonte and Thomas Maughan [plus John and Jane Wilcox] and The Hon. Rosemary Russell, plus 6 others” [Wilcox, 1990] as founding members.

Tomkins was an influential lay homeopath who lived in Enfield. Mr Tomkins was a staunch supporter of homeopathy who had fought long and hard for its expansion. When he died in 1992, he had been in practice for over 50 years and full time since 1946.

In particular he will be remembered for his efforts to establish the Incorporated Institute of Homeopaths Ltd in 1947, an entirely lay organisation of which he was a Fellow. He was also actively involved in the formation of the first Society of Homeopaths founded by Thomas Maughan and John DaMonte [amongst others] in 1970.

Born in London in June 1916, Tomkins was very keen on physics, chemistry and electricity, which remained abiding subjects of interest to him all his life. He learned homeopathy mainly from Percival George Quinton and also from Otto Leeser of the London Homeopathy Laboratories, High Wycombe.

Due to a hip injury in childhood, Tomkins was classed as handicapped and thus unsuitable for an active service life during WW2. Being a research chemist he therefore undertook government research during wartime.

However, it was this injury and over 2 years spent in hospital because of it, that fostered his first interest in medicine. Later, when 16 years old, he received successful homeopathic treatment for the hip problem from Percival George Quinton at the London Homeopathic Hospital and as a result his interest in homeopathy developed further.

Tomkins was also introduced to homeopathy through his wife’s family, who lived in Great Ormond Street in the 1920s and ran hansom cabs from just opposite the London Homeopathic Hospital. Tomkins’ wife Dorothy clearly remembers her aunts visiting homeopathic pharmacies and using Belladonna for headaches, Arnica for bruises, Nux vomica for indigestion and Calendula for cuts and grazes.

That was when she was a small child in the 1920s, and a time when homeopathic medicine chests were still commonly available from such London homeopathic pharmacies as Keene and Ashwell of New Cavendish St, Gould’s of Moorgate, Butcher Curnow of Blackheath and James Epps of 60 Jermyn Street St. James’s and 48 Threadneedle Street in the City.

Tomkins set up practice from his home on the N. Circular Road during the 1940s and later moved with his young family to Enfield. Married with 3 sons, he became a keen homeopath working at district and family level, giving remedies to mothers for their little ones, to friends, neighbours and relatives and treating all and sundry for everything.

This was grass roots homeopathy at its best, so typical of the majority of lay homeopaths of the late 40s, learning homeopathy by practicing it ‘as you go along’. In the absence of formal teaching arrangements it was the only way to learn homeopathy in those days before the homeopathic colleges. He was predominantly a low potency prescriber, though he occasionally used the more powerful higher potencies.

Tomkins was on favourable terms with many of the doctors at the Faculty Homeopathy, the British Homeopathic Association, the Hahnemann Society as well as the many homeopathic pharmacies in London at that time. He regularly attended meetings and gave talks, as well as working hard for the Hahnemann Society to promote homeopathy in every way.

He also knew very well the other important London lay prescribers of the day, including Leslie J Speight and Phyllis M Speight, Edward W Cotter, Arthur Jenner, Frank Parker Wood, Eric F W Powell, Noel Puddephatt and J Ellis Barker. The latter in particular, actively encouraged Mr Tomkins in his early interest in homeopathy during the 1930s and 1940s.

Something of an eclectic homeopath, he had many teachers, but was mainly taught by Otto Leeser and Mr L E W King, a homeopath in Lancaster Gate, who he described to me as ‘one of the most brilliant minds I have ever met and the best friend I ever had’ [Tomkins, 1990]. King died in 1970. His other influences came from J Ellis Barker and Percival George Quinton.

Tomkins died on the morning of 23 October from a pancreatic tumour and in a sense it was the end of a chapter of homeopathy. Like Samuel Hahnemann, and many since, who have been consumed with a burning passion for homeopathy, Eddy fought hard for it, defended it fiercely and devoted his whole life to its practice and promotion. As he said to me in interview ‘you only enter the doorway of homeopathy once, for you will never leave it.’ [Tomkins, 1990].

In 1946 Edwin Tomkins set up an Incorporated Institute of Homeopaths Ltd with a legal framework within the terms of the Companies Act [App 1]. He addressed a packed meeting of several hundred in Caxton Hall in London to establish this lay organisation for homeopaths, to devise a syllabus, begin teaching and set up a proper Register.

Edwin Tomkins Obituary is in The Homeopath, Volume  13, Number 1. March, 1993. Page 42.


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