James Compton Burnett MD (Glasgow 1872) (20 July 1840 – 2 April 1901) was a British orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy. He worked at the London Homeopathic Hospital and in private practice, and he succeeded Edward Barton Shuldham as editor of The Homeopathic World.

James Compton Burnett’s first wife Agnes was the daughter of homeopathic pharmacist Edward Thomas. They had six children together. With his second wife, Katharine Rees, Burnett had seven more children, including the novelist Dame Ivy Compton Burnett. He was also the great uncle of royal homeopath Dr. Margery Grace Blackie.

James Compton Burnett was a contemporary of William Bayes, Charles Harrison Blackley, John Galley Blackley, David Dyce Brown, George Henry Burford, John Moorhead Byres Moir, John Henry Clarke, H A Clifton Harris, Robert Thomas Cooper, R M Le Hunt Cooper, Paul Francois Curie, Robert Ellis Dudgeon, John Epps, Washington Epps, Giles Forward Goldsbrough, Clarence Granville Hey, Ethelbert Petrie Hoyle, Richard Hughes, James Johnstone, Thomas Robinson Leadam, Octavia Margaret Sophia Lewin, Edward M Madden, Henry R Madden, David MacNish, Edwin Awdas Neatby, Alfred Crosby Pope, Mathias Roth, Edward Wynne Thomas, C T Knox Shaw, Charles Edwin Wheeler, John Weir, David Wilson, James Craven Wood, Dudley d’Auvergne Wright, Stephen Yeldham and many others.

Burnett was born in Redlynch, near Salisbury, in 1840 to a landowning family of Scottish descent, Charles and Sarah Burnett. From age 16-19 he was sent to school in France, and from there he traveled the Continent.

He chose medicine as a career and attended medical school in Vienna in 1865, where he remained 2 additional years studying anatomy, receiving a gold metal for his accomplishments in that field.

After Vienna Burnett enrolled in the medicine department at Glasgow University from which he graduated in 1872 after just one year. He completed an internship for his MB degree at Barnhill Parochial Hospital and Asylum in Glasgow in 1876.

“Passing through a brilliant examination in anatomy, lasting one hour and a half, the professor shook hands with him, saying that he had never examined a student with so brilliant and thorough a knowledge of anatomy.”

Burnett was introduced to homeopathy during his internship by his friend and colleague Alfred Edward Hawkes. He was also a contemporary of Richard Hughes, Robert Ellis Dudgeon, and John Henry Clarke.

He studied homeopathy in Liverpool under John James Drysdale and Edward William Berridge, at first very secretively for fear of reprisals from allopathic colleagues.

After practicing for a time in Birkenhead and Chester, Burnett relocated to London where he was homeopathic physician to Lewis Carroll, among many other patients.

In 1881 Burnett was one of the two local secretaries for the 2nd Quinquennial International Homeopathic Congress held in London on 12 – 16 July at Aberdeen House, Argyll Street.

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s Burnett was one of the four notable homeopathic physicians who became known as the “Cooper Club.” These men, Burnett, Robert Thomas Cooper, Thomas Skinner, and John Henry Clarke, met and dined weekly and shared their notes and experiences. They had a major influence on British homeopathy.

Later in his career Burnett ran two busy medical practices in London, at Finsbury Circus and Wimpole Street, although he resided in Brighton.

Burnett was a prolific writer and he wrote numerous books and small pamphlets about diverse aspects of homeopathy.

Burnett busied himself not only with his thriving consulting practice and prodigious writing output, but he also contributed to the homeopathic materia medica. He introduced a number of nosodes: Bacillinum Burnett, Coqueluchinum, Carcinosinum, Epihysterinum, Ergotinum, Morbillinum, and also Schirrinum and possibly Influenzinum.

In addition to the influence of homeopathy in his work, Burnett was inspired by a contemporary of Samuel Hahnemann‘s, the Paracelsian Johann Gottfried Rademacher. Burnett combined homeopathy with Rademacher’s “organopathy,” explaining that Rademacher was as much a hero to him as Hahnemann, for “it seems to me that organopathy and elementary homeopathy are identical.

James Compton Burnett died suddenly of heart failure at his hotel in London during the night of Monday, April 1st 1901, two months before daughter Ivy’s seventeenth birthday” [Obituary, British Journal of Homeopathy, 1901]

Burnett’s older brother, John, a Congregational Minister in Bedford, died just two weeks before him, on 21 March 1901.

John Henry Clarke wrote of Burnett, “It is not too much to say that during the last twenty years Burnett has been the most powerful, the most fruitful, and the most original force in homoeopathy”

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Of interest:

Dame Ivy Compton Burnett, DBE 1884 – 1969 was an English novelist.

Dame Ivy Compton Burnett, D.B.E., was born in 1884 in Pinner, England, the seventh child of a leading homeopathic physician, Dr James Compton Burnett.

She was the first child of his second marriage; her mother, Katharine Rees, was a beautiful, delicate, imaginative, imperious and highly competitive woman who had met her future husband as his patient, and fallen passionately in love with him.

Their devotion was mutual and, when Dr Burnett’s first wife died in childbirth, he remarried so promptly that Ivy was born less than two years after her last half brother.

Her mother inherited five small stepchildren (one had already died in infancy), ranging in age from eight years old down to the new baby, and over the next fifteen years she bore seven more of her own.

The Burnett family moved to a large house on the south coast at Hove, Sussex, although Dr. Burnett spent the greater part of each week in town, immersed in the demands of a rapidly expanding London practice.