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September 10, 1982

III. Medical Sects and Their Influence

JAMA. 1982;248(10):1221-1224. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330100057035

A sect comes into existence through two distinct yet related steps. First, some one person, not satisfied with traditional beliefs or actions, propounds new beliefs or ways of doing things. Second, through force of personality, together with favorable environmental conditions, he persuades other persons to follow him, to accept his beliefs and procedures. A sect is thus a splinter group, leaving tradition and following some definite leader on a new course. In medicine, sects have been numerous indeed, but in the first half of the 19th century the two most important were those founded by Samuel Thomson and Samuel Hahnemann.

Samuel Thomson (1769-1843), born in a frontier region of New Hampshire, grew up on a farm in severe poverty. He had only the most minimal education, yet he did have a long-time interest in plants and their medicinal properties, an interest that eventually determined his life work. In sparsely settled