John Rutherford Russell (MD Edin. 1838) (28 April 1816 – 22 December 1866) was an orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy to become Physician of Edinburgh Homeopathic Dispensary, Physician at the London Homeopathic Hospital, Fellow of the British Homoeopathic Society, member of the Royal Medical Society, member of the Pennsylvania Homeopathic Medical College, member of the British Homeopathic Association, a member of the Association for the Protection of Homeopathic Students and Practitioners, and editor of the British Journal of Homeopathy with John James Drysdale and, from 1846 onwards, Robert Ellis Dudgeon.

John Rutherford Russell was born in Edinburgh in April, 1816, the son of James Russell (1754 – 1836), Professor of Surgery at Edinburgh University and the grandson of James Russell (c. 1720 – 1773), President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (1752-1754) and, from 1764, Chair of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University.

In 1824, Russell entered the very first class of the newly opened Edinburgh Academy, before later proceeding to the university where he followed in the family business of medicine. During his time as an undergraduate Russell became close friends with fellow students John James Drysdale and Francis Black, both of whom would eventually become notable homeopathic physicians, and the chemist Samuel Brown.

Russell graduated with his MD in 1838 and spent the following three years touring the European Continent. In the Autumn of 1840 Drysdale, who was in Germany translating Fletcher’s lectures, had discovered homeopathy and invited Russell to join him. The two worked on Fletcher’s translations and learning Hahnemann’s system, studying with Alphonse Noack in Leipzig, before moving on to Berlin and then Vienna, where they studied under Fleischmann at the Gumpendorf homeopathic hospital.

In 1841 Russell returned to Edinburgh where he and Francis Black set up as homeopathic physicians and established an homeopathic dispensary for the poor of the city at 5 James’ Square.

In 1843 Russell, Black and Drysdale launched the British Journal of Homoeopathy. Black would only remain as co-editor for one volume, but Russell, Drysdale, and Robert Ellis Dudgeon continued to co-edit until Russell resigned in 1854, although he continued to contribute articles.

Russell built up a thriving practice in Edinburgh and in 1845 married a Miss Renny. They had three daughters, but his wife’s premature death, along with the presence of an increasing number of homeopathic physicians in the city, persuaded Russell to relocate his family south of the border in his 36th year.

In 1852 Russell moved to Leamington where he set up in practice and the following year married for the second time to Georgina Isabella Maxwell. The Russells remained in Leamington for six years until in 1858, aged 42, he moved the family to Harley Street, London. They would remain there until 1864, when Russell established his final residence on Clarges Street, Mayfair.

While in London Russell was also elected physician to the London Homoepathic Hospital. He would remain dedicated to the hospital for the remainder of his life, both as physician and as lecturer. Russell also edited the Annals of the London Homoeopathic Hospital.

Russell’s most prolific period as a writer was during his London period, and he authored several of his most notable books there, including The History and Heroes of the Art of Medicine.

By the summer of 1866 Russell’s exertions in private and public practice, writing, lecturing, and advocating for homeopathy, had taken a toll on his health. He was persuaded to cease practice and seek rest in Scotland, but despite the promise of recovery he passed away in the country of his birth on 22 December, 1866, aged 50.

Of Interest:

For a short period Russell employed poet and novelist Isabella Fyvie Mayo (Edward Garrett) to perform medical secretarial work.

He was a friend of Walter Scott, to whom he was distantly related to on his mother’s side, and who was a frequent visitor to his family home.

Russell was also a friend of Scottish chemist and physician William Gregory and was a correspondent of Augustus de Morgan, who was a patient of James John Garth Wilkinson.

Wilkinson acknowledged in his 1855 book War, Cholera and the Ministry of Health, that Russell was the first homeopath to use cobra venom as a homeopathic remedy for diseases of the heart valves.

Russell was the homeopathic practitioner of, among others, Eneas Sweetland Dallas, Alexander John Ellis, George MacDonald, and Aurelio Saffi.

In 1866 Russell wrote a moving Obituary tribute to Dr. John Conolly in The British Journal of Homeopathy, Volume 24, in which he praised Conolly for his ‘unusual liberality’ towards homeopathy.

Russell recounted that he was the homeopath of a mental patient who was placed under Conolly’s care at Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. The family of the sick woman were keen advocates of homeopathy, and they asked John Conolly if Russell could treat her as she was not improving under orthodox medical care.

Russell asked Conolly if he had any objection to his intervention, and Conolly replied:

Hanwell Lawn House 9.2.1863: ‘My Dear Sir, I never object to anything that can by possibility be useful to any patient under my direction unless I think it sure to be mischievous; and in a case such as this the importance of what is done for the satisfaction of those dear to her cannot be overlooked.

‘Instead, therefore, of troubling the patient with a call tomorrow, I would propose that Dr. Russell should see her quietly, and, if it seems desirable, more than once, and that, aftrewards, I should have the pleasure of conferring with him anywhere and at any time that can be arranged.

‘I am sure that this will be the best plan to pursue.’

Russell explained that this plan was indeed put into effect, and the patient remained under the joint care of himself and John Conolly until she recovered, much to the satisfaction of her family.

In April 1858 Russell was one of the many homeopaths present at the Festival in aid of the London Homeopathic Hospital, presided over by the Duke of Wellington and attended by many Aristocratic and minor gentry patrons. Other homeopaths present included Dr. Ayerst, William Bayes, Hugh Cameron, Edward Charles Chepmell, William Vallancy Drury, George Napoleon Epps, Arthur Guinness, Edward Hamilton, Frantz Hartmann, Amos Henriques, Joseph Kidd, Thomas Robinson Leadam, J Bell Metcalfe, Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, Henry Reynolds, Charles Caulfield Tuckey, George Wyld, Stephen Yeldham, and many others.

Russell was a colleague of William Edward Ayerst, Hugh Cameron, John Chapman, Matthew James ChapmanEdward Charles Chepmell, Paul Francois Curie, William Vallancy Drury, George Napoleon Epps, James Epps, John Epps, James Manby Gully, Edward Hamilton, George Calvert Holland, Richard Hughes, Joseph Kidd, Thomas Robinson Leadam, Victor Massol, J Bell Metcalfe, Samuel Thomas Partridge, Henry Reynolds, David Wilson, Stephen Yeldham and many others.

In 1853 Russell was one of a group of leading homeopaths involved in the creation of a Directory of British and Foreign Homeopaths and their supporters to counter the suppression of all mention of homeopaths and their supporters by the editors of the London and Provincial Medical Directory. Also involved were George Atkin, John Chapman, Robert Ellis Dudgeon, James W Metcalfe, Frederick Hervey Foster Quin.

In 1861 Russell attended a dinner in honour of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, alongside William Edward Ayerst, Hugh Cameron, Matthew James Chapman, Edward Charles Chepmell, Edward Hamilton, Amos Henriques, George Calvert Holland, Henry Kelsall, Joseph Kidd, Thomas Robinson Leadam, James Bell Metcalfe, George Wyld, Stephen Yeldham, William Bayes, and many others.


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