Transactions of the Thirty-Eighth Session of the
American Institute of Homeopathy, held at St. Louis, June 2,3,4,5, 1885

       By D.J. Mcguire, M.D. Detroit, Mich.

The Board of Directors of Provings begs hereby to make its first annual report. This committee was appointed, as you remember, for the following definite purposes: To formulate and publish rules for the conduct of drug-experimentation and to review and pass judgment upon such unpublished provings as may be submitted to them with regard to their reliability and fitness for publication.

The slightest consideration will make it apparent to any one familiar with the history of the Hahnemannian materia medica, that the committee in accepting this work has undertaken a Herculean task. The undertaking is great, not only in the importance of the end to be accomplished, but in the multitude and intricacy of the means required and in the variety of the conflicting views to be met.

Immediately after receiving our commission we met at Deer Park, passed in review the work to be done, and organized by the selection of chairman and secretary. The secretary of the committee was requested to prepare a set of rules for proving, and to present them at a subsequent meeting for comment and criticism. From this time on our work has proceeded uninterruptedly till the present day.

In the month of September the committee held several meetings in Chicago, reviewing the work thus far done, and adopting resolutions embodying our more matured notions of the best methods of work. After long consultation and conference, there was reached at length an agreement on certain working rules.


Chief among these rules are the following:

1st. In all experiments with drugs of various degrees of attenuation, the prover is to be kept in ignorance of the name and the nature of the medicine he is taking. This is believed to be an important safeguard against the admission of false symptoms.

2d. That blanks consisting of the medicine-vehicle only should be freely interspersed. This is believed to be another important and hitherto neglected safeguard against the admission of symptoms due to idiosyncrasy or imagination.

3d. That the consecutive order of the development of drug effects should not be interrupted by repetition of the dose. This rule is believed to be important in that it gives in the provings a more complete, more life-like and more useful picture of drug action than can be obtained from the confused, jumble of early and late, primary and secondary, direct and reactionary drug effects.

4th. That there should be a free use during the proving of the modern means of diagnosis, such as the thermometer, the opthalmoscope, chemical analysis, etc. In the practical results of this year's work, we are pleased to be able to call your attention to the advantages to be derived from each of the foregoing improvements in method.

5th. For the sake of uniformity, the new provings have been carried on as far as practicable with drugs issued by the committee.

6th. In the dispensing of drugs for provings, the work has been divided so that the director who issued the drugs immediately to the prover was himself deprived of all bias in regard to attenuation and dose. The report of the pharmacist making known the attenuation and the dose was not given to the board until after the presentation of the provings. Thus, incidently we reach valuable results in the settlement of the question of potentization and dose.

7th. The provings are to be performed by at least five persons for each drug, selecting for the purpose persons of different sex, age, temperament and residence, and there are to be a sufficient number of repetitions in each prover to produce convincing confirmatory results.

A circular letter was issued, setting forth the advantages to be derived from drug-experimentation under these improved methods. This was published in several of our medical journals. In addition to this the members of the board have used their personal influence to secure volunteer provers. Still further, the committee offered three prizes to meritorious provers -- one of $100, one of $50 and one of $25.

Here it is proper to mention the fact that Drs. T.F. Allen, F.H. Orme, J.P. Drake, A.I. Sawyer, A.R. Wright and I.T. Talbot have generously contributed to a fund for this purpose. The cost of drugs and the expense of travel, borne by individual members of the board at no inconsiderable personal sacrifice, have been freely given in the cause of science.

The prizes were made conditional upon the prover's conducting experiments in all three of the methods we recommend, including experiments on animals. The board regrets to report that not one of the numerous volunteers has conformed to this requirement, and that it is compelled to suffer another twelve months from pecuniary plethora.

Upwards of eighty persons volunteered to make provings. Of these twenty were physicians, and the remainder medical students. The great majority of these provers offered their services after personal solicitation by members of the board. Two of the board members have made provings in their own persons.

The accepted results of this work are not voluminous. We desire it to be borne in mind that this is but the inchoate beginning of our work, and that our striving is for quality rather than quantity. Of these eighty provers many have made no report to the committee. Some have taken the parcels of the first or of the second series only, and reported that they got no symptoms worthy of record.

Others have sent in reports which are gratifying to the board, not only on account of the external and internal evidence of the genuineness of the drug effects, but on account of the superiority of the style and character of the work accomplished. Of these provings the following are deemed worthy of publication.

Three series of experiments with Aconitum, showing in addition to the well-known prominent effects of this poison, the successive variations of bodily temperature produced in the healthy subject. The temperature curve of Aconitum, determined by actual thermic measurement, is not to be found as far as we know in any extant treatise on materia medica except one, which appeared immediately after these experiments of ours. I refer to that invaluable publication, the Cyclopedia of Drug Pathogenesy, published jointly by this Institute and the British Homeopathic Society.

Three partial provings of Aletris farinosa, one of Convallaria majalis, and two of Lilium tigrinum. We have also a proving of Arsenicum by J.S. Robinson, which the committee think worthy of mention on account of its merits, but which brings out nothing with regard to the action of this drug not already published. Several incomplete partial provings are in the hands of the board, which will be held for corroboration.

A running glance at these provings will illustrate the practical advantage of the methods we have adopted.

  1. There is a notable absence of the irrelevant symptoms which most of us believe to be produced by causes other than drug action, namely, idiosyncrasies of provers, the influence of the imagination, antidotal interference and unassignable extraneous influences.
  2. The clear distinction which we are able to make between the real and the imaginary. This is a beautifully illustrated in one of the provings of Stannum metallicum.
  3. The living, organized, unmangled, undisseceted character of the provings in the single-dose series contrasts favorably with the broken up and dismembered presentation of drug effects which is furnished by some of our earlier provings.
  4. The close resemblance of the better provings one to another, extends not only to the individual symptoms, but to the chronological order in which they appear. To illustrate, we will call attention to two provings of Lilium, those of Dr. W. and Miss N.

    - With Miss N. the first symptom was a neuralgic pain in the right ovary.
    - With Dr. W. the first symptom was a neuralgic pain in the left testicle.
    - With Miss N. the second symptom was a neuralgic pain in the temple.
    - With Dr. W. the second symptom was a neuralgic pain in the temple.
    - With Miss N. the third symptom was lassitude and languor.
    - With Dr. W. the third symptom was neuralgic pains in the extremities.
       (Both are spinal in origin).
    - With Miss N. the fourth symptom was coated tongue.
    - With Dr. W. the fourth symptom was offensive taste and salivation, followed by griping in the bowels and chilliness.

These remarks are offered merely for the purpose of calling attention to the prominent features of these provings. If your time and patience would permit, we should be pleased to read one of them as a sample.

In conclusion, your committee begs your kind indulgence as regards its shortcomings, and earnestly asks the cooperation of every member of this Institute in this work of experimentation. Without this cooperation our work must be a failure, with it the possibilities of success are boundless.