In the last years of the 18th century, a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann laid out the principles of homeopathic medicine, and a battle has raged between practitioners of homeopathy and allopathy (traditional medicine) ever since. Hahnemann believed that substances that would produce illness in a healthy person would cure the disease in a sick person, if appropriately diluted and weakened.
This is a stark contrast to the principle behind allopathic medicine, which is that the effectiveness of a substance generally increases with an increase in its concentration. The debate has not been confined to the western world. Indian physicians have made major contributions to the literature on both sides of the argument.
The principles of homeopathy were first expounded by Samuel Hahnemann in the last decade of the 18th century.
This German physician stated that certain substances produce symptoms of illness when administered in large doses to a healthy person.
This is in stark contrast to basic principles of the allopathic system which states that efficacy of medicinally active substance increases with increase in concentration.
In the mid-19th century, Rajendralal Datta, a Calcutta-based practitioner of allopathic medicine created an uproar by shifting over to homeopathy.
When the Calcutta chapter of the British Medical Association was set up in 1863, Datta campaigned vociferously for recognition to homeopathy.
But he was up against formidable adversaries.
Among them was the eminent physician and founder of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Mahendralal Sircar.
Called to deliver the inaugural address of the British Medical Association's Bengal branch, Sircar launched into a diatribe against homeopathy.
He spent six months with the physician, closely observing the method of treatment followed in homeopathy.
Next lecture Sircar's next lecture at the British Medical Association (1867) was a rude shock to allopaths.
Sircar presented a comparative picture of allopathy and homeopathy at the lecture and argued that homeopathy had not got the importance it deserved.
Such support for homeopathy from a renowned allopath stunned members of the British Medical Association.
In 1878, the senate of Calcutta University nominated him as a member of its medical faculty.
But all other members lodged a strong protest against this and even expressed their inability to sit with a person "who had faith in a useless subject such as homeopathy
and who followed it as a method of medical treatment".
In 1919, the Bengal government sought Sircar's advice when a severe plague epidemic hit the province.
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