Samuel Swan was born July 4, 1814 in Medford, Massachusetts. Shortly before the Civil War he moved to Montgomery, Alabama to improve his health and pursue his mercantile interests.
There he became acquainted with pioneer homeopath, Dr. G. A. Ulrich, with whom he studied homeopathy. During a yellow fever epidemic, all physicians except Ulrich fled the city. With Swan's assistance, Dr. Ulrich successfully treated many cases of the disease.
Soon afterwards, Swan returned north and enrolled in the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, studying under Hering, Lippe, and Guernsey. He graduated in 1866 and moved to New York City. There he was associated with Edward Bayard for five years, after which he established his own practice.
Dr. Swan became a member of the International Hahnemannian Association (IHA) in 1881, but his interest in and use of nosodes and preparation of extremely high potencies estranged him from some members of that body.
Though having studied under the foremost homeopaths and having mastered the application of the principles of the Organon and the Chronic Diseases, Swan strove to improve the practice of homeopathy. His work was condemned by some as isopathic, empiric, and antidotal, at best. Forthwith, he resigned from the IHA in 1887.
Denying isopathic relation to his work, Swan declared that all poisons show individuality in their effects, which are unchangeable, but somewhat modified by the idiosyncrasy of the individual. The causes of disease in Nature, sporadic or epidemic, be their source spores, microbes or germs, produce objective symptoms which would indicate a certain disease such as cholera, measles, etc.
He further stated that the poison that caused the disease in the healthy would be inherent in the products of said disease, and would cure similar symptoms in the diseased individual. Thus, these poisons were the most fully proven, as their effects were in the literature of all schools as the pathogenesis of diseases such as measles and diphtheria.
"Here we have the proving ready made for us, in healthy persons. Carefully collate all the symptoms of measles on healthy people, and you have the pathogenetic effect of that poison, and when you have found such in the sick, administer the potentized saliva or poison, which for want of a better name we shall call Morbillinum, and you cure the effects of that poison."
Dr. Swan further asserted that the poison is not isopathic, but when potentized, is an antidote to the crude poison - not an idem, but similar, thus homeopathic. He cites the Organon, footnote 59 to par. 156 (p. 194, 5th. ed., Wesselhoeft trans.). Swan, in summary, states "...a morbific poison will cure the disease which produces it, if given in a high potency."
Swan's resulting list of prepared morbific products, nosodes, single remedies and several compound remedies contained about 1000 items, a number of which were proven and accepted nosodes which he had introduced. The most notable of these are Syphilinum, Lac caninum, and Tuberculinum (20 years before Koch).
Other potencies of combinations and 'imponderables' brought ridicule and antagonism from such men as E.J. Lee, MD, editor of The Homeopathic Physician, who attacked Swan for affixing the seal of The International Hahnemannian Association on the published list, therefore implying the endorsement of the latter. Lee accused Swan of advocating empiric methods and nonsense, labeling him a Don Quixote...
Despite the real or apparent damage done to homeopathy at the time by his alleged isopathic methods, these valuable nosodes, when proven by himself and others, became invaluable medicines in the materia medica.
Dr. Swan's work with high potencies continued until he was severely poisoned by preparing potencies of a Japanese varnish, which eventually led to his death three years later in 1893.
Swan's contributions to the literature (including provings) are to be found in Medical Advance, Organon, Homeopathic Physician, and IHA Transactions. In 1886 Swan published his Catalog of Morbific Products, Nosodes, and Other Remedies, in High Potencies.
A Materia Medica, containing Provings and Clinical Verifications of Nosodes and Morbific Products was published in 1888. Among the remedies that Dr. Swan introduced and/or proved were: Syphilinum, Lac caninum, Vaccininum, Variolinum, Tuberculinum, and Chloral hydrate.
In an anonymous memorial it was stated that Swan was considered a crank by many for his views and practice, but "like Hahnemann, was at least 50 years in advance of the majority of his homeopathic brethren. "