Swan Memorials

Two obituaries of Swan. The year of his birth is different in them, as is his date of death and reported age at the time of his death. The authors of the pieces were not named.

Medical Advance, Vol. 31 January 1894, pages 71-72.

SAMUEL SWAN, MD, died Oct. 17, 1893. in the 80th year of his age. About three years ago he began a series of experiments with some kind of Japanese varnish, and while engaged in preparing the potencies of the substance he was severely poisoned, from which he never fully recovered. He was confined to his bed for about six weeks with a severe bronchial cough, under which he gradually sank. He died without suffering, in the same peaceful way in which he lived. One of his intimate professional friends bears this testimony to his sterling worth, both personal and professional:

"Dr. Swan was born July 4, 1814 in Medford, Massachusetts. In the early part of his life he was engaged in the mercantile business, and some time in the fifties went to Montgomery, Alabama, to live, on account of his health; here he made a fortune, and made his first experiments with medicine. Dr. Swan's uncle was one of the first homeopathic physicians who settled in New England, if not the first, and the young man was always more or less interested in homeopathy and took with him a case of homeopathic medicines to his new home in the south. Just before the outbreak of the rebellion an epidemic of yellow fever drove all of the Montgomery doctors out of the city, with the exception of one homeopath, who, with the assistance of Dr. Swan, treated with remarkable success a large number of patients. This interested the doctor so much in medicine that he resolved to come north, take a regular course, and graduate, which he did in 1866, in Philadelphia.

"Dr. Swan at this time was intimately associated for two or three years with Dr. Henry M. Guernsey, and, after graduating, came to New York, and was associated with Dr. Edward Bayard for five years, and was engaged in the practice of medicine in New York from 1866 to the present time, 27 years.

"Until within the last few years he had a very large and high-class practice. His enthusiasm for nosodes and the extreme high potencies separated him more or less from some of our profession, still I doubt if any physician in New York has ever been regarded by his professional brethren with warmer feelings of regard than Dr. Swan.

"He leaves behind him a host of friends and patients to lament his kindly, genial ways. The marked trait of Dr. Swan's character was his great generosity; whatever was his, was his friends'. He was absolutely without suspicion; a very hard worker; he always did his best, and believed that every other man did the same. With a single exception I have never heard him speak unkindly of any one, or speak of any one, with this exception, as ever having done him an intentional harm. Dr. Swan leaves a widow and two grown-up children.

"Though I did not agree with the doctor in many of his ideas regarding the action of nosodes, I remember him with profound gratitude. both professional and personal. I think it would be difficult to estimate, at the present moments his enormous usefulness."

By many members of the homeopathic profession, who appear to be satisfied with a routine method of practice, and take their highest inspiration from the ipsi dixit of some shining lights, Dr. Swan was regarded as a crank on high potencies and nosodes. But Dr. Swan was not understood. He was continually experimenting, endeavoring in his way to improve the practice of homeopathy, to enlighten some of the darkness of his professional brethren, and to cure some of the diseases now universally considered incurable. In this, like Hahnemann, he builded wiser than he knew. Like Hahnemann, he was at least half a century in advance of the majority of his homeopathic brethren. Few men in our school had so thoroughly mastered the Organon and Chronic Diseases as Dr. Swan, and few knew better than he how to apply their principles in the cure of the sick. Much of his teachings appeared new and strange to the majority, because to the majority the principles and teachings of the master were new and practically unknown. He discovered and prepared Tuberculinum, so that it could be safely and successfully used in the cure of the sick twenty years before Koch ever dreamed of it. It has saved many valuable lives, and will save many more in the future. In this devotion to principle and singleness of purpose, like Hahnemann, Hering, Galileo, Columbus, Harvey, and many others, he was an enthusiast. But every homeopath should rejoice that the profession has had such enthusiasts. We are reaping the harvest their zeal and industry and courage have shown.

The Homoeopathic Physician, November 1893, pages 557-559


The homeopathic profession will read with surprise this announcement of the death of Dr. Samuel Swan, of New York, so widely known in connection with the numerous remedies of the nosode class which he has from time to time introduced to professional notice. He died on Wednesday the 18th of October, at ten o'clock in the morning. Dr. Swan had been unwell for several months and had relaxed his usual active work and had lost much of his interest in the events of the profession owing to the prostration that his illness had caused. In May last he wrote: "I have been sick for the last two months and am now so weak I can't attend to patients, who very considerately keep away from me. *** I have been too sick to pay attention to anything." Later he retired to his bed never to rise again. He was well aware his end was approaching and expressed a wish to die. He was fully conscious to the last, but had lost the use of his voice and was finally unable through weakness even to write what he wished to say. Dr. Swan was born at Medford, Mass., July 4th, 1815. He was therefore seventy-eight years old at the time of his death.

The first half of his life was spent in active business pursuits, which he was finally compelled to relinquish on account of ill health. He then went South in the company of his devoted wife, and there met Dr. Uhlrick through whom he became interested in medicine, and under whose direction he studied it. He then returned to the North, entered as a student in the Homoeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, now merged in Hahnemann Medical College, and graduated in 1866. His diploma bears the signatures of such distinguished men as Adolph Lippe, Constantine Hering, and Henry N. Guernsey. He settled in New York, and went into the active practice of medicine, which he continued until incapacitated by the illness of the last few months. The first five years of his medical career were spent almost entirely in gratuitous practice. He was a kind man and none who appealed to him for aid ever went away unsatisfied. The grateful memories that cluster about his name amply testify to his deeds of good-will and benevolence.

The writer of this sketch himself owes Dr. Swan a large debt of gratitude for valuable professional services rendered to his mother under the following circumstances: The patient had been suffering for years the most excruciating agony from headache. The pain was so violent as to cause loud screaming and a desire to run wildly from one room to another. No remedies prescribed seemed to have any effect, and there seemed to be no hope of procuring relief.

In June of 1876, Dr. Adolph Lippe gave a dinner party at which were assembled Dr. Edward Bayard, Dr. Henry T. Guernsey, Dr. Constantine Lippe, Dr. Samuel Swan, two or three others whose names it is impossible now to recall, and the writer. This case of violent headache was incidentally mentioned to Dr. Swan in the course of a conversation in which experiences had been mutually recounted.

He became much interested and offered to prescribe. A detailed statement of the symptomatology was furnished him, and after two or three remedies had been given with but indifferent success, Lac-felinum was administered. The screaming ceased and the headache slowly disappeared. The disease energy was driven to the surface with the production of an extremely annoying eruption upon the legs of a decidedly erysipelatous character which has continued from that time. The relief from the intense agony of the headache, however, was as complete as it was remarkable. In January, 1878, he joined Dr. Thomas Skinner then of Liverpool, and now of London, Dr. Adolph Lippe, of Philadelphia, and Dr. Berridge, of London, in the publication of a new journal devoted to pure Homoeopathy. It was called The Organon, and was issued quarterly. It at once took a prominent position in medical journals, and promised to be a great success. It ceased after three years of publication, however, and pure Homoeopathy was without a representative. It was then that Dr. Lippe, deploring the loss of the journal, determined to start another journal in its place. The Homoeopathic Physician was thus established and was the successor of The Organon. Dr. Swan became much interested in this latest venture and was a frequent contributor to its pages.

Dr. Swan did not confine himself to pure Homoeopathy, and he soon became widely known for his endorsement of Isopathy. This was considered to be an invasion, and a nullification of the doctrine of the law of similars, and it brought upon him a storm of denunciations and criticisms in which this journal sometimes participated. It would be out of place here to rekindle the fires of that controversy, but without affirming or denying the injurious effect upon Homoeopathy that it is claimed to have caused, the one practical result has been the bringing to professional notice of a large number of new and singular remedies. Among these may be mentioned the various "milks" which were, with one exception, introduced by Dr. Swan. That one exception was Lac-caninum, which was originated by Dr. Reissig; by him communicated to Dr. Bayard, who, in turn, transmitted the information to Dr. Swan.

Dr. Swan introduced Tuberculinum to medicine years before the same remedy was discovered by Professor Koch, of Berlin, who made such a tremendous sensation with it in the ranks of the dominant school. He also introduced Syphilium, Medorrhinum, and other remedies of like character, now known under the general name of nosodes. The profession were not opposed to the use of these nosodes, but the demand was frequently made that they be proved like the "polychrests." To this Dr. Swan answered that these remedies had already produced provings which could he found in the phenomena and symptoms of the disease of which they were the products. This answer did not satisfy the strictly logical Hahnemannians, and thus a gulf was formed between them and him which has continually widened. Much more might be said, but space will not permit the elaboration of the subject, and it is accordingly left to other writers to treat as they shall feel inspired.