James Tyler Kent
James Tyler Kent was born in Woodhull, New York, on March 31, 1849. After completing two undergraduate degrees by the age of 21, Kent undertook two postgraduate courses, without graduating, at the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio. At 26 years of age he set up practice as an eclectic physician in St Louis, Missouri and soon became a distinguished member of the Eclectic National Medical Association. He was a staunch Baptist.
In 1928, Kents second wife, Lucy, became ill. (Kents first wife, Ellen, had died at 19 years of age, shortly after their marriage.) In spite of Lucys symptoms of "nervous weakness, insomnia, and anaemia" being treated by both orthodox and eclectic physicians, her condition continued to deteriorate and she was bedridden for months. Under ridicule and opposition from Kent, the homopathic physician, Dr Richard Phelan was called in to see Lucy. Following his prescription, she made a dramatic recovery. As a result, Kent elected to study with Phelan and changed his allegiance from eclecticism to homopathy. He considered homopathy to be the only therapy that was guided by laws and principles and the only one to address the fundamental cause of illness.
He then became a careful student of Hahnemann's Organon and other works of the new school, with result in his complete conversion to homoeopathy, his resignation from the Eclectic Medical Association in 1879 and his appointment to the chair of Anatomy in the Homoeopathic Medical College of Missouri, which he held from 1881 until 1883, was appointed professor of Materia Medica at the Homopathic Medical College of St Louis, Missouri, from 1883 until 1888, became professor of Materia Medica and Dean of the Post-Graduates School of Homopathy at the Hahnemann Medical College (Philadelphia) and occupied the chair of professor of Materia Medica at the Hering Medical College and Hospital, Chicago. During this period, Kents second wife died.
Thus for more than thirty-five years Dr. Kent had been a conspicuous figure in medical circles, and for more than twenty-five years in teaching and practice under the law of similia; and he is looked upon as one of the ablest teachers and exponents of the homoeoapthic school in America. His contributions to the literature of the profession are known by their strength rather than their length, and include, more prominently, his "Repertory", "Homoeoapthic Philosophy" and "Lectures on Materia Medica". Among the various professional associations of which he was a member, the more prominent of them, were the Illinois State Homoeopathic Medical Society, the American Institute of Homoeopathy and the International Hahnemannian Association, besides which he held a honorary corresponding membership in the British Homoeopathic Medical Society.
Both Lectures on Homopathic Philosophy and Lectures on Homopathic Materia Medica were compiled by Kents students from notes they had taken during class lectures. In 1916, his students insisted he take a holiday. Kent agreed, deciding he would write a "proper" book. Not long after commencing his vacation, his catarrhal bronchitis developed into Brights disease (glomerulonephritis) and he died 2 weeks later, on June 6, 1916 at Stevensville, Montana.
Kent was an avid Swedenborgian and proponent of high potencies (200-c and up), often prescribing the CM and MM potencies and inspiring the "Kentians" with his belief that the homeopath must treat not only the patients physical body, but also the mental/emotional and spiritual elements simultaneously which required using the higher potencies. Kent's famous Repertory was more systematic and readable than its precursors and is still the popular choice today. Kent developed "pictures" of constitutional types of patients, i.e.: Sulphur as "the ragged philosopher" etc. Later, his pupil, Margaret Tyler, developed this idea further in her book, Homeopathic Drug Pictures, and more recently Mr. Geroge Vithoulkas has developed his own profoundly insightful "essence pictures" along similar lines. The influence and popularity of Kent's interpretation of homeopathic philosophy has steadily increased around the world since his death.
Features of Kents teaching and practise were:
High potency centesimal prescribing (200C and above for chronic cases).
Single remedy prescribing.
Emphasis on "mental" and "general" symptoms.
"Watch and wait" methodology from the 4th Edition Organon (the dry dose medicine was not repeated until all improvement from the previous dose had ceased).
Kents writings include:
Repertory of the Homopathic Materia Medica (1877). Initially compiled by him for his own use. Other homopaths began asking for their own copies. Revised by his widow Clara (and others) up to 1961. Forms the basis of many of the more recent repertories.
What the Doctor Needs to Know in Order to Make a Successful Prescription (1900).
Lectures on Homopathic Philosophy (1900).
Lectures on Homopathic Materia Medica (1904). Drawn from his lectures on remedies from Herings Guiding Symptoms of our Materia Medica.
New Remedies, Clinical Cases, Lesser Writings, Aphorisms and Precepts (1926).
Since the early 1900s the Kentian influence has dominated homopathic practice around the world. Only in recent times are its weaknesses and limitations starting to be addressed. These include:
Only 4th edition Organon posology (dry dose/watch and wait methodology) is used even though the liquid dose/more frequent repetition methodolgy of 5th Edition was available to Kent. This has repercussions for understanding the response to the first prescription and for follow-up treatment.
It does not include the use or benefits of the Fifty Millesimal scale as the 6th Edition of the Organon was not available to Kent.
Some of the 28 provings conducted by Kent, now within our repertories, were not true provings but were manufactured by Kent to satisfy an Editors demands (e.g. Aurum arsenicum).
Excessive emphasis on the "mental" symptoms rather than an emphasis on symptom totality. This imbalance has resulted from Kents followers as much as from Kent himself.
The expectation (and desire for) an aggravation at the commencement of treatment to confirm the choice of remedy. Deliberately seeking an aggravation contradicts the ideal of rapid, gentle, and permanent cure, something that Hahnemann constantly strived for and evidenced by his refinements to posology by liquid dosing and the Fifty Millesimal Scale.