– Kent – a modern biography of james tyler kent (J. Winston)

0434_james_tyler_kent3 Kent - a modern biography of james tyler kent

James Tyler Kent may have equaled or even surpassed the genius of Hahnemann by delivering a highly accessible form of homeopathy to the 20th century. Kent inspired the “Kentians” with his belief that the symptoms of supreme importance to the case, that expressed the very deepest level of the patients disturbance, were often the mental symptoms, which required the higher attenuations. Kent’s legendary repertory is more systematic and readable than all its precursors and is still the popular choice today, being the standard text for all schools of homeopathy from strict Hahnemannianism, down. It is also the foundation for all “new-and-more-complete repertory’s” and is currently the basis for all computerized repertorial programs. Kent’s Repertory is structured after Swedenborgs scheme of “from above downward,” which simplified repertorizing by categorizing all symptoms as either Mental, General, or Particular. 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. George Vithoulkas, who studied with a student of Kent, has developed his own profoundly insightful “essence pictures” along similar lines. The influence and popularity of Kent’s immortal work has steadily increased around the world since his death, but especially since the recent resurgence of interest in homeopathy in the US starting in the 1970’s with the “Vithoulkians” -Gray, Morrison, and others. It is difficult to imagine where homeopathy would be today without the influence of Kent. His interpretation of Hahnemanns work is the foundation for nearly every school and organization of homeopathy, worldwide.
 KENT, James Tyler (31 March 1849 – 5 June 1916), homeopathic physician and educator, was born in Woodhull, New York, the son of Stephen Kent, town clerk and Carolyn Tyler. Evidence suggests that he was the illegitimate son of his brother, Henry, and sister, Jane, since they were listed as “mother” and “father” on his death certificate. Little is known about Kent’s personal life as he was a very private man.
 He took his PhB (1868) and AM (1870) at Madison (Colgate) College in Hamilton, NY. He studied medicine with a Dr. Brown in Woodhull. He completed his Medical degree at the Eclectic Medical Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1871.
 Kent moved to St Louis, Missouri in 1874, began a medical practice and taught as professor of anatomy in the American Medical College (Eclectic) from 1877-78.
 In 1878 his wife fell ill, and unable to help her, he called a local homeopathic physician who cured her. Under the guidance of the physician, Richard Phelan, he began to study homeopathy. He resigned his position at the Eclectic College and accepted a position of professor of anatomy at the Homeopathic Medical College of St. Louis in 1881. He became professor of Materia Medica in 1883. He rose quickly within the homeopathic community. By 1884 we see, in homeopathic society transactions, the question, “Well, what would Dr. Kent say about this?” 
 In 1887 he was elected President of the International Hahnemannian Association. In 1888 he accepted an invitation from theWomen’s Homeopathic Hospital in Philadelphia to take over the practice of the recently deceased Adolph Lippe, MD. Shortly after he arrived he formed the Organon and Materia Medica Society.
 In 1890 he founded the Post Graduate School of Homeotherapeutics. Most of the funding of the school came from John Pitcairn, the founder of Pittsburgh Plate Glass. The school also established a free clinic. By the time it ceased operation in 1900, the school had seen over 40,000 patients and trained 25 physicians -all who became the leaders in the homeopathic movement and kept homeopathy alive in the US through the first half of the 20th century.
 At the same time, Kent, with his pupils, were busy compiling what was to be his major work -the Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica. It was first published in 1897 through a subscription. One of his pupils wrote that “for twenty years every spare hour was given to this book. The labour was immense, for every symptom had to be traced back to its original source, and only those who have undertaken such work can realize what it meant.”
 In 1900 Kent accepted an offer to relocate the Post Graduate School to Chicago, under the auspices of the Dunham Homeopathic College. He was Dean of the Dunham College, held a chair as professor of Materia Medica at the Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago, and taught at the Hering College. While in Chicago he maintained a busy private practice and continued to edit his Repertory.
 He worked closely with Ehrhart and Karl, a homeopathic pharmacy, to design and build a machine to make high serial dilutions of homeopathic medicines. These “Kent Potencies” continued to be produced into the 1940’s.
 Kent served as editor for the following Journals: The Medical Courier, St. Louis, 1881-82; Journal of Homeopathics, Philadelphia, 1897-99; The Homeopathician, Chicago, 1912-1916.
 Kent watched the homeopathic schools slowly close after the Flexner Report written for the Carnegie Foundation in 1910. He wrote to a friend, “While I am only 61 years old, I am worn out…. I have been lecturing to classes on homoeopathy and materia medica since 1883, and it has been a bitter fight continuously. Though I have enjoyed it, it has worn me out. For fifteen years I gained little but sneers; then, now and then, a pupil would try and do it. But not until I had put out the ‘Repertory’ twelve or thirteen years ago could I feel that I had made any impression…” In the spring of 1916 he went to his vacation home in Stevensville, Montana where he died and is buried.
 He was a very private man and little is known about his personal life. His first wife Ellen (maiden name unknown, 1853-October 22, 1872), is buried in Woodhull, NY. Nothing is known of the marriage details. He apparently met his second wife, Lucia (Lucy) H. (maiden name unknown, birth unknown), in St. Louis. She came with him to Philadelphia where she died on October 13, 1895. He then married Clara Louise Toby (October 12, 1856- December 23, 1943) on July 2, 1896. A physician, she helped him with the editing of his great work. He had no children.
 Through his association with John Pitcairn, Kent * became very interested in the teaching of the Christian mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg. His marriage to Clara Louise was reported in the New Church News, and his major writings reflect the teachings of Swedenborg.
 His teaching was so effective that his students published two books that were the transcription of the lectures he delivered in Philadelphia: Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy (1900) and Lectures on Materia Medica (1905). They also had published, in 1926, a collection of his essays, Lesser Writing,
 Aphorisms, and Precepts, that had appeared in various homeopathic journals throughout his life. All four works are still in print. James Tyler Kent is generally acknowledged as the finest homeopathic thinker and physician of the turn of the century. His Repertory is in constant use and, in the late 1980’s, was developed as a computer database. Those he taught became the great homeopaths of the next generation and kept homeopathic medicine alive in the USA, England, and India. The lessons he taught are still
 referenced as the most concise thinking on the subject.
 There is little information available on the life of Kent. A brief biography of him, written by Pierre Schmidt, MD, appears in the introduction of recent editions of his Repertory. The “Memorial Edition” of Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy (1920) contains many reminiscences of Dr. Kent. Assorted details about his life and practice can be found in issues of the Homeopathic Recorder and the Journal of Homeopathics. Several people have done work researching the life of Dr. Kent: Hela Michot-Dietrich, PhD, published an article in the Zeitschrift für Klassische Homöopathie (1985) and Homeopathy Today (1986) about Kent’s lineage, and Klaus-Henning Gypser, MD, published several articles in the Zeitschrift für Klassische Homöopathie and is working on a biography of Dr. Kent. The minutes of the Postgraduate School in Philadelphia are in the Hahnemann University Archives in Philadelphia. The Bradford Scrapbooks (in the Hahnemann Archives) contain several letters from Kent and three short biographies. There are several private homeopathic collections which contain letters from Dr. Kent.
 JulianWinston is the editor of the Homeopathy Today, the journal of the National Center for Homeopathy. He is a relentless researcher, with many stacks of obscure homeopathic treasures from the past, most of which he is currently attempting to ship to his new home in New Zealand. Julian created the “must have” video Faces of Homeopathy which is for sale through the NCH. In his spare time, Julian plays pedal-string guitar, and banjo (see AH 1 interview). 

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