Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4
This is a programme to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of homoeopathy’s founding text – Samuel Hahnemann’s Organon of Rational Medicine. It recognises that homoeopathy remains deeply controversial, and that while many in Britain are convinced of its benefits there are others who argue that it is scientifically invalid and should not continue to be recognised by the NHS. This is not intended as an intervention in that debate. It is a historical programme locating the development of Hahnemann’s thinking within the context of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century medicine.
It’s been said that Hahnemann would be more famous than he is if he had not developed homoeopathy; that this has meant he’s come to be seen either as a saint or a charlatan. He was neither. He was first and foremost a critic of what he saw as the cruel, ineffective and unscientific treatments that he was trained to deliver – bleedings, purges, and huge doses of mercury. He renounced being a doctor for a time because he felt he did more harm than good. What was to become homoeopathy developed from his insistence that medicines be tested before they were used, and even its opponents recognise Hahnemann’s significance in the history of pharmacology and therapeutics. We examine his arguments and those of his opponents. The similarities between the debates now and then are striking. But the programme also questions how useful the distinction between ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ is for understanding the history of western medicine.
We interview leading medical historians in both the UK and Germany ; and actors bring to life the medical conflicts of Hahnemann’s own time.
Written and presented by Mark Whitaker, the programme is a Square Dog Radio production for BBC Radio 4.
N.B. Some music & extracts have been edited from the original broadcast version due to copyright restrictions