The 4 leading schools of medicine (1910)

A general description of the four leading schools of medicine: allopathy, homeopathy, osteopathy and eclecticism.


Literally the word Allopathy means “other suffering,” from the Greek “alios” meaning other, and “pathos” meaning suffering. A more liberal translation would be other methods of treating suffering. The term was first used during the latter part of the eighteenth century by Hahnemann, the founder of the Homeopathic School, to distinguish the ordinary or regular practice of medicine as opposed to Homeopathy.

Notwithstanding the comparatively recent origin of the term, however, the methods and theories of Allopathy are based empirically upon the results of the practice of medicine since the time of Galen, and logically upon the scientific facts disclosed by modern research and study. In its broad and popular sense, Allopathy is the preservation of health and the treatment of disease by the use of any means that will produce a condition incompatible with the disease.

The application of the theories and methods of this “old school” necessitates a thorough knowledge of anatomy, pharmocology, pathology, bacteriology, physiology and other sciences. At the present time much stress is also laid upon the means for the prevention and the eradication of diseases and their causes. The inefficiency of drugs is recognized and besides the articles of the Materia Medica, the “regular” physician makes use of antitoxins, vaccines, surgery, electricity, baths, etc., in treating diseases. Everyday examples of their methods may be seen in the use of quinine in Malaria, antitoxins in Diphtheria and vaccines in Smallpox, etc.


This school was founded by Hahnemann, who lived in Germany over a hundred years ago. Every one now admits that he was a great scholar. In translating a materia medica he was very much struck with the article on cinchona, where it seemed to state that taken continuously in large doses it would produce all the indications of ague. He tested other remedies in the same way and finally announced his law “Similia Similibus Curantur.”

Definition given by a Medical Dictionary of Homeopathy: “A system of treatment of disease by the use of agents that, administered in health, would produce symptoms similar to those for the relief of which they are given.” For instance, ipecac given in large doses will produce certain kind of vomiting. If the same kind of vomiting, with the other symptoms agreeing, occurs in disease ipecac would be given for the trouble.

But if the vomiting was produced by ipecac, that same medicine would not be given to stop it, but treatment given for an overdose of the drug, ipecac. According to the principles of Homeopathy a medicine is selected which possesses the power (drug diseases) of extinguishing a natural disease by means of the similitude of its alterative qualities, (similia similibus curantur); such a medicine administered in simple form at long intervals, and in doses so fine as to be just sufficient without causing pain or debility, to obliterate the natural disease through the reaction of vital energy.

A great many medicines are used in this way by all schools, but the “regular” school claims it is not an universal law. Some homeopathic doctors claim that the antitoxin treatment for diphtheria, etc., is an application of the homeopathic law. The poison that produces the diphtheria is taken and from this by a thorough and precise process the serum is made and injected into the body of a person who has diphtheria. Hydrophobia is successfully treated in the same way. A homeopathic doctor has a right to use any sized doses he wishes, but he claims experience has proven that large doses are not often necessary and that the medicine usually acts better attenuated.


An eclectic physician is a member of a school or system that claims to select “that which is good from all other schools.”

This school uses very few mineral remedies, but uses many vegetable remedies. They have introduced a great many vegetable remedies into medical practice and very many of them are useful.

The homeopathic school has benefited very much by the experience of the eclectic system. This school uses remedies in large and small doses. Many of them use the homeopathic attenuated drugs.


“The name ‘Osteopathy’ is made up of two Greek words: ‘Osteon,’ which means ‘bone,’ and ‘pathos,’ which means suffering (to suffer). ‘Pathy,’ our English equivalent for this word, by usage has come to mean “a system of treatment for suffering or disease. Hence, viewed strictly from its derivation, this term. Osteopathy, would carry only the meaning of bone suffering, ‘bone disease’ or ‘bone treatment.'”

Definition: “Osteopathy is that science of treating human ailments which regards most diseases as being either primarily produced or maintained by an obstruction to the free passage of nerve impulses or blood and lymph flow, and undertakes by manipulation to remove such obstruction so that nature may resume her perfect work.”

Explanation: “While it is a distinctive theory of Osteopathy that disease conditions, not due to a specific poison, are traceable to mechanical disorder in the body, or some part of it, and that the correction of such disorder is not only the rational treatment, but is necessary to the restoration of a permanent condition of health, yet as a palliative treatment appropriate manipulations are occasionally employed to stimulate or inhibit functional activity as conditions may require.

Osteopaths also employ such rational hygienic measures, common to all systems of healing, as has been proven of undoubted value, and take into account environmental influences, habits and modes of life, as affecting the body in maintaining or regaining health.”

The “American School of Osteopathy” is located in Kirksville, Missouri. The course of study required is of three years duration, of nine months each, and the degree of D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) is given to the graduates.


Top photo: Surgery at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois (c1910)

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