Dr. Phineas Parkhurst Wells

M.D.

(1800-1880)

Phineas Parkhurst Wells

Dr. P.P. Wells was born in Hopkinton, NH, in 1808. He was the son of a doctor who discouraged the study of medicine. As a result, Wells took up printing at age 16, but later decided to study medicine with the old school physician, Dr. McGregory. He then entered Dartmouth Medical College, graduating in 1833.

Due to his failing health, Wells gave up medicine for several years, devoting himself to the drug business. He resumed practice in Providence, RI, where Dr. A.H. Okie introduced him to homeopathy. Shortly afterward, William Wesselhoeft gave Wells a letter of introduction to Constantine Hering.

When meeting with Wells, Hering turned away his patients for the day, locked the door, and the two talked until 4 a.m., leaving Wells with the knowledge he sought from the great master. After the meeting with Hering in 1843, Wells moved to Brooklyn, where he practiced strict Hahnemannian homeopathy until his death.

Dr.Wells was one of the founders of the American Institute of Homeopathy in 1844, and reluctantly a founder and first president of The International Hahnemannian Association in 1881. He was the co-editor of the American Homeopathic Review from 1862-66.

Dr. Wells' own cure by Boenninghausen in 1859 further galvanized his belief in Hahnemannian homeopathy. As a result of this experience Wells, next to Adolphe Lippe, became the most stalwart defender and elucidator of Hahnemann's principles.

Wells' lectures on homeopathic practice at the New York Homeopathic Medical College were highly esteemed, yet he declined their publication by his enthusiastic students. Fortunately his invaluable papers in the American Homeopathic Review on Scarlet Fever, Pneumonia, Typhoid, Rheumatism, and Diarrhea survive. Dr. Wells' work on intermittent fever and his revision of Joslin's Cholera were important journal supplements. A voluminous legacy of papers can be found in the Medical Advance, Homeopathic Physician, American Homeopathic Review, and the International Hahnemannian Association Proceedings.

Here is a sample from one of his lectures:

"Characteristic symptoms are those which individualize both the disease and the drug. That which distinguishes the individual case of disease to be treated from other members of its class is to find its resemblance among those effects of the drug that distinguish it from other drugs. This is what we mean when we say that with these the law of cure has chiefly to do. When we say 'like cures like' this is the 'like' we mean."

In discussing Wells in The Genius of Homeopathy, Stuart Close writes,

"The Totality is an ideal not always to be realized. As a matter of fact, in practical experience, it is often impossible to complete every symptom, or even a large part of the symptoms. Patients have not observed, or cannot state all these points.

"They will give fragments; the location of a sensation which they cannot describe, or a sensation which they cannot locate; or they will give a sensation, properly located, but without being able, through ignorance, stupidity, failure to observe or forgetfulness, to state the conditions of time and circumstances under which it appeared. Sometimes no amount of questioning will succeed in bringing out the missing elements of some of the symptoms.

"What is to be done under such circumstances? Make a guess at the remedy? Give two or three remedies, in alternation? Give a combination tablet? Or 'dope' the patient with quinine or morphine? Rather than do any of these things, follow the advice of my old preceptor, Dr. P. P. Wells. Sometimes, when I approached him with a difficult case, he would assume a quizzical expression and ask, 'Don't you know what to do?'

"On being answered in the negative he would say, 'If you don't know what to do, do nothing-until you do know;' emphasizing the injunction with a characteristic downward stroke of his right forefinger. Then he would go over the case and show what should be done and how to do it."

Dr.Wells used Boenninghausen's method of dealing with such cases. He had known Boenninghausen and had received instruction and treatment from the Grand Old Man personally, while traveling in Europe. Boenninghausen's famous Therapeutic Pocketbook was devised primarily to deal with just such cases and Wells mastered the approach.

Dr. Wells cured his close friend, Dr. Carroll Dunham, of diphtheria with the remedy Nux. vomica. Dr. Wells is also responsible for our use of the remedy Ailanthus glandulosa. Wells was presented with two cases of poisoning in children. From the description of the symptoms, it seemed that they were malignant cases of scarlatina; but since there were no such epidemic at that time, he looked for other causes, and found that the little patients had been chewing the blossoms of the Ailanthus.

This told him at once that Ailanthus would probably be a remedy for scarlatina. He carried out provings of the drug, and found that this information fully confirmed what he had already learned from these poisoning cases.

Known to be the truest and best of friends to young practitioners, Wells was a preceptor to T.F. Allen and Stuart Close, and a lifelong friend to Fincke and Carroll Dunham. He and Joslin attended Dunham in his final illness, after which Wells stated he would have willingly died for him. A trusted colleague who never wavered in his commitment to Hahnemannian principles, Wells passed away after a rich and productive life in his 83rd year.