Sue Young Histories

Fewster Robert Horner 1803 - 1863

February 07, 2010

Fewster Robert Horner 1803 - 1863 MD, MRCSE Guy’s Hospital 1825, was a British orthodox physician, Physician at the St. John Street Dispensary in Hull, Justice of the Peace for the town of Kingston upon Hull, Senior Physician at Hull Infirmary, President and Vice President of the British Medical Association,

Horner was a virulent sceptic of homeopathy who voted against homeopathy in the infamous Brighton resolutions of 1851, and who was solely responsible for suppressing the statistics presented by the London Homeopathic Hospital during the cholera epidemic of 1854,

Horner nevertheless converted to homeopathy in 1857 after he was asked to investigate homeopathy, and from that time until his death, he was a stanch adherent and practitioner of the new system.

The conversion of Fewster Robert Horner was considered by homeopaths to be as important as the conversions to homeopathy of William Henderson and Jean Paul Tessier, and his conversion to homeopathy was widely publicised throughout Europe and around the World,

Horner practiced at Charlotte Street, Hull, and in East Sulcoates,

Thomas Lindsley Bradford in_ _The Logic of Figures also reports that Fewster Robert Horner, an allopathic Physician, was appointed by The Medical Board to review the cholera epidemic statistics in Britain, who was at that time so biased against homeopathy, that the statistics of the London Homeopathic Hospital were ‘deliberately and designedly suppressed, because they showed that by that treatment, 2/3rd were cured; while according to the aggregate statistics of the other hospitals, 2/3rds died‘.

Horner wrote:

Yet up to the very time of instituting my enquiry - and it is with humility I make the confession - blinded by prejudice and ignorance, like most of the profession in Hull and elsewhere, I deemed homeopathy a vain and impossible thing; and even when I began to read, to investigate, to put it to the proof, I had far more expectation of unmasking and exposing it as a fallacy, than I had of finding in it that good by which the evils of the old practice of medicine might be obviated, and a more gentle but a far more efficient method of cure be substituted.

‘As an additional motive for investigation, I felt that the time had arrived when something must be done, both by the individual and the collective efforts of the profession: the onward spread of homeopathy must be stayed.

‘Notwithstanding the oft repeated declaration of my professional brethren to the contrary, it was too apparent that it was not ‘dying out’, but was steadily progressing, nay, rapidly extending itself; not amongst the credulous and uneducated, but the enlightened and higher  classes of society were daily becoming its firmest adherents and determined supporters.

‘Nor was this onward progress restricted to any town or district, but throughout England, Ireland and Scotland; and yet more throughout America, Germany and France, and throughout all the States of Europe was it adopted and cherished.

‘I was convinced that this progress was not to be arrested by the raillery, abuse and misrepresentation of the medical profession; amidst it all, homeopathy had but the more and more increased - people would think for themselves.

‘I now felt assured that the only rational and effective, as well as manly and honourable way of disabusing and disaffecting the public mind, was to submit it to the touchstone of observation and experiment.

‘I determined on its practical investigation. Therefore, honestly divesting my mind, as far as I was able to do, of all feeling and prejudice against it, I first diligently searched and studied all the best works on the subject. I thus obtained through insight into and knowledge of the science; of the peculiar mode of preparation and stated powers of its medicines - of their nature and properties, and of their effects and application as remedies in diseases; points, be it observed, absolutely necessary to a fair and enlightened test and examination. This being at length accomplished, I most stringently, zealously, and I might add, jealously, conducted my lengthened and practical enquiry.

‘My first discovery was my own ignorance as to what homeopathy really was, and the equal ignorance of the rest of my professional brethren with whom I had conversed on the subject. It was I confess with a feeling of shame that I recalled to mind how we had misjudged and misrepresented homeopathy.

‘Strange, strange, truly, that the medical profession should persist in denying, yea, in heaping obloquy and ridicule upon a science of which they know themselves - confess themselves - to be wholy or essentially ignorant. Nay, I have often heard the most witty as well as the most serious and earnest declaimer give a scornful negative reply to the enquiry if they had ever studied or fairly tried it.’

Horner continued:

I shall now describe, a little more definitely, the way in which I investigated and tested the powers of homeopathic medicine. I first gave an unmedicated powder (simply sugar of milk), and of course without any result.

‘I then selected and administered the proper remedy; when amendment commenced and a cure was effected. (I may here observe that all those experiments were not confined to a single case, but were repeated again and again).

‘Varying the means of testimony, I then picked some forms of disease, where the symptoms were well marked and persistent, and gave homeopathic medicines, and noted their favourable effects. The, unknown to the patient, I administered a precisely similar looking powder, but one that was unmedicated; when the patients, or in the case of children, their parents, voluntarily observed that ‘this last medicine has lost its effect, and done no good!’ Medicated doses were again given, and again improvement began, and relief was expressed.

‘Again, I chose cases of internal disease (they were two of chronic inflammation of the lining of the bowels and three of consumption) in which the symptoms were of a decided character, and where the old system of treatment had given but very partial and unsatisfactory relief. These were then treatred on the new system - homeopathically - and marked, unmistakeable improvement followed. On resorting again to the old approved method of treatment, the progress lingered and was stayed, but was again restored by turning to homeopathic remedies.

‘Further, I wished to select some diseases where the changes effected in the condition of the diseased parts could be seen by myelf, as well as felt by the patient. I chose, therefore, some of the worse cases of inflammed and ulcerated sore throat (which have been so prevalent of late in Hull and the neighbourhood). Some of these I treated first on the old and approved plan; and with the usual tedious progress; but, when I now substituted the homeopathic remedies, the rapid diminution of the tumefaction and swelling, and the healing of ulceration was most striking.

‘Indeed, few things could impress a common beholder with more suprise than the witnessing of the effects of homeopathic remedies in the very worst cases of ulcerated throat and palate…’ (Horner goes on to discuss many cases in great detail)

In 1857, the British Medical Journal reported that over the years, ’scores’ of dissaffected orthodox physicians had converted to homeopathy, but rarely did they have to report the defection of such an illustrious colleague, of known character and ability.

_The Lancet_ took up the call and published the cat calls of allopathy against him.

In 1857, a special General Meeting of the Governors of Hull Infirmary was convened, when outrage at Horner’s statement that ’the homeopathic millenia is on the eve of its development’ and that the ’old system of medicine is rapidly dying out‘.

Horner claimed thet the old system of medicine was ’so prejudiced, so tied and bound.. so cabined, cribbed, confined by the old doctrines of colleges and schools… doctrines which they have imbibed from their youth up.. that even the powerful wand of truth itself … cannot as yet penetrate the dark armour of this prejudice and self interest in which they have encased themselves…‘.

Horner was immediately forced to resign his position as a Senior Physician at Hull Infirmary, and his name was ’erased’ from the list of Vice Presidents of the British Medical Association (though his name was quoted in a list of previous Vice Presidents published in The Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, Volume 19 in 1864, and in The British Medical Journal in 1894),

Horner died in 1863, his Obituary was published in The American Homeopathic Review Volume 3, and in 1868, Horner was awarded an Honorary membership of the Pennsylvania State Homeopathic Medical Society,

John Horner of Kilburn (Yorkshire) was born in 1755, the son of George Horner a Blacksmith in Kilburn in the eighteenth century. This John Horner had Interests in Stocking House, Kilburn, but resided in Helmsley in 1792. He married Eleanor and they had two children baptised in Kilburn, William Solomon, and Fewster Robert Horner. Their daughter Eleanor was buried at Bell House in Kilburn in 1812 aged eighteen, which indicates that John Horner may have resided elsewhere at her birth in 1794. It is possible that Fewster Robert Horner was the Foster Horner that later moved to Skipton… (Fewster Robert Horner had a brother Jonah Horner MD - 1869)

Horner wrote Homeopathy: reasons for adopting the rational system of medicine, being a letter to the governors of the Hull General Infirmary, Dissertatio medica inauguralis de scrofula,

Of interest:

W B Horner was the dispenser at the Manchester Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary,


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