Margaret Lucy Tyler LRCPE LRCSE LRCPSG MD (9 February 1859 – 21 June 1943) was an English homeopath who was influenced by the work of Chicago physician James Tyler Kent. As one of the leading British proponents of Kent’s “high potency” approach to prescribing, Margaret Tyler would go on to become one of the most influential homeopaths of all time.
Homeopathy was an integral part of Margaret Tyler’s background. Her mother had raised her large brood of children using homeopathy, while her father, the Conservative politician and Chief Inspector of Railways, Henry Whatley Tyler, was deeply invested in homeopathy. He served on the Board and house committee of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (RLHH) and contributed large sums of money to the expansion of the hospital. As Sir John Weir (1879-1971) recounted in his memorial for Margaret Tyler in 1943:
When her father, the late Henry Whatley Tyler, gave the Tyler Wing to the London Homeopathic Hospital, he told her “I have done my part: now you must do yours.” [Sir John Weir, “Margaret Lucy Tyler: An Appreciation,” Homeopathy 1943]
Margaret did not let him down. Along with her mother, Lady Tyler, in 1907 she established the “Sir Henry Tyler Scholarship” in his memory. This was a Trust Fund that provided £150 grants to send young doctors to the USA for further training in homeopathy. Lady Tyler also contributed a stained glass window for the Chapel at the RLHH. These acts of generosity demonstrated the continued dedication of the Tyler family to the cause of homeopathic medicine.
Despite this longstanding family connection to homeopathy, Margaret came to the practice of medicine relatively late in life. She spent the first half of adulthood as a relatively prolific author; among the non-medical books she published in this period were Anne Boleyn, A Tragedy in Six Acts [And in Verse] (London: Kegan Paul & Co., 1884), Lost Identities [A Novel] (London: Sonnenschein & Co., 1888), and Gentleman Jack [A Story] (London: Authors Co-operative Publishing Co., 1890). During WWI she penned two small non-fiction booklets, The Army Appeals to the Women of England (London, 1915) and Sandbags (London, 1915), followed after war’s end by another booklet, Labour – Capital – Brains (London: St. Catherine Press, 1919). She even found time to return to fiction writing in the early 1930s when she published Miss Lydd [A Novel] (London: J. Bale & Co., 1931).
In the final decade of the nineteenth century Tyler resolved on a career in medicine and studied at the London School of Medicine for Women:
She qualified in medicine in 1903 at the age of 44 and served on the staff of the London Homeopathic Hospital until her death forty years later. She specialised in retarded children but her great contribution was teaching. She lectured, she ran a correspondence course, and edited a journal which could be used as a textbook.
Tyler’s book, first published in 1942, was arguably her greatest contribution to homeopathy. Her profound understanding of the importance of the materia medica in homeopathic prescribing was noted by fellow Kentian, Sir John Weir. In his obituary of Tyler, Weir recounted how she sought to “read a drug each night before retiring,” [Sir John Weir, “Dr Margaret Tyler Obituary,” British Homeopathic Journal 33 (1943): 92-93].
Although Tyler never personally met James Tyler Kent – in her eulogy of Kent, published in 1916, she said it was her great disappointment to have never heard him lecture – she corresponded with him and was impressed with not only his high potency approach to prescribing but also his comprehensive system of repertorizing. Tyler would later co-author a short booklet with Weir on the subject that was originally published in the Homoeopathic World in 1912 and was later reissued in 1920 by the London Homoeopathic Publishing Company.
Tyler’s embrace of Kentian homeopathy represented a rejection of the conciliatory tendencies of traditional British homeopathy. This had been exemplified by the “low potency” old guard of Richard Hughes and Robert Ellis Dudgeon, homeopaths who sought rapprochement with allopaths by emphasizing the scientific nature of homeopathy while disavowing the metaphysics and vitalism present in Hahnemann’s work. Many of the newer homeopaths, including Tyler and Weir, were dissatisfied with the Hughesian orthodoxy and found in the American approach epitomized by Kent a path back to true, Hahnemannian, homeopathic medicine. Thanks to her father’s financial bequest, Tyler was able to reshape British homeopathy along Kentian-Hahnemannian lines, starting with the RLHH:
About 1907 her great concern was for the future supply of homeopathic physicians, as there was no definite post-graduate teaching, though much had been done by individuals. She was a great believer in going to the fountain-head, as she termed Samuel Hahnemann, and feared that much of the homeopathic practice was getting away from her ideal.
This created a stir and much controversy, but Dr. Tyler carried on with her efforts and many of the physicians of today studied under Dr. James Tyler Kent between 1908 and 1913.” [Sir John Weir, “Dr Margaret Tyler Obituary,” British Homeopathic Journal 33 (1943): 92-93].
Other early beneficiaries of the Tyler Scholarship were Drs. Douglas Borland (1885-1960), Dorothy Shepherd (1885-1952), Harold Fergie Woods (1883-1961) and William Percy Purdom (1882-1918). These physicians would all incorporate Kent’s methods in their own practice and help establish it as the standard form of practice in British homeopathy during the first half of the twentieth century.
Sir John Weir was another of these early Tyler scholars who was able to spend six months at the Hering Homoeopathic College in Chicago where Dr. James Tyler Kent lecturered on materia medica. Soon after his return to England in 1911, Weir was appointed James Compton Burnett Professor of Homeopathic Practice and Honorary Secretary of the British Homeopathic Society Section of Materia Medica and Therapeutics.
The Hughesian Old Guard naturally resisted the new trend, but though they remained unconverted they were ageing, and by the end of the First World War opposition to Kentianism had all but ceased….
James Tyler Kent’s writings were now the authoritative source, but not the only source: Dr Tyler also tried her hand at the art of painting word-pictures of medicines and soon out-did her mentor in readability and verve. In her hands these “remedy pictures” became almost Dickensian.
We are here a world away from the austerity of densely packed narratives of provings in Hughes’s Cyclopaedia, let alone from the bare symptom lists in Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura. Even James Tyler Kent seems dry and restrained in comparison.
Tyler’s embrace of Kent’s repertory and her development of his method of prescribing by associating “drug pictures” with the patient’s corresponding “disease picture” helped restore homeopathy as both a science and an art form. For Tyler this elevated the practice beyond that of allopathic case-taking. In her 1927 paper “Different Ways of Finding the Remedy” she asserted that “The homoeopathic doctor is all that the others are — and then more.”
Tyler’s influence extended beyond the new generation of homeopathic doctors, her promulgation of Kentianism helping lay the foundations for a boom in lay homeopathy in the mid twentieth century:
The writings of Margaret Tyler and her colleagues made homeopathy accessible to people who lacked a medical background – hence their continuing popularity today…
Although it is difficult to be certain, it seems likely that the concept of “constitutional prescribing” in the modern sense is largely due to Margaret Tyler and her associates…
Tyler made several remedies “classic;” for example Tyler recommended Gelsemium for NBWS (never been well since) flu, where the patient is tired, languid, heavy. Similarly, she also found Baptisia effective:
“in that year of very fatal “typhoid ‘flus” following the 1914-18 war, one remembers being sent for urgently by a local doctor to see a case – his worst – of influenza….she was dark, almost purple in the face with the Baptisia drowsiness. “Baptisia!” “But I only have it in the mother tincture.” “Why not? – give it!” And in a few hours she was out of the wood, and made a rapid recovery.”
In addition Tyler engaged in experimental homeopathic research into the therapeutic potential of Nosodes:
The use of nosodes as treatment for miasms is now quite common. Margaret Tyler in England (a pupil of Kent), and others since, have made frequent use of the isodes of vaccines (Diptherinum, Morbillinum, Varicellinum) to treat for past traumas
The use of ascending potencies over a short period of time is not new, if not necessarily widely practised. Margaret Tyler was one to use common potencies (30, 200, 1M, 10M) over several days, or even only a few hours apart.
After spending her entire medical career at the RLHH, Margaret Tyler died on 21 June 1943, aged 86.
- “How Not to Do it”, The Homoeopathician (February 1912). Reprinted in the Homoeopathic Recorder (October 1929).
- Repertorising with Sir John Weir, Homeopathic World 47.4 & 47. 7 (1912).
- Homeopathic Drug Pictures, (London: Homoeopathic Publishing Co., 1942).