Charles Ransford M.D. (c. 1808 – 11 July 1886) was a British orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy to become Physician at the York Homeopathic Dispensary. He was a member of the British Homeopathic Society and a Member of The Northern Homeopathic Association.

Before becoming an homeopath, Ransford was Physician to the Edinburgh Western and Royal Dispensaries, Examiner and Treasurer of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, an Extraordinary Member and President of the Royal Medical Society in Edinburgh, Member and President of the Harveian Society, and Secretary of the Edinburgh Obstetric Society.

In 1882-3, Ransford was a Council Member of the British Homeopathic Society, alongside Hugh Cameron, William Valancey Drury, Robert Ellis Dudgeon, Robert Douglas Hale, Edward Hamilton, Richard Hughes, John Hamilton Mackechnie, Henry Ridewood Madden, James Bell Metcalfe, Alfred Crosby Pope, George Wyld and Stephen Yeldham.

Charles Ransford was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, in 1808, the son of hat manufacturer Edward Ransford (1766 – 1842)  and Mary Jarrett (1774 – 1826).

Ransford took up medicine at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, before studying in London, Paris, and Edinburgh. In 1833 he was awarded his M.D. from the University of Edinburgh, and was granted the diploma of the Edinburgh Royal College of Surgeons. Two years later, in 1835, he became a Fellow of the Edinburgh Royal College of Physicians and was appointed its treasurer and an examiner.

In August 1833, Ransford married St. Clair Inglis (1810 – 1902) in Edinburgh. They had several children, including their youngest son, ship’s surgeon James Inglis Ransford M.R.C.S. (1845 – 1869), who was lost aboard the P&O vessel SS Carnatic that sank in the Red Sea on 13 September 1869.

As an allopath, Ransford was implacably opposed to homeopathy, until an encounter with a young patient, an Oxford student holidaying in Edinburgh in 1844, planted the seeds of a change in attitude.

After almost fifteen years of practice in Edinburgh, in 1848 Ransford moved to Alnwick on the lands of the Duke of Northumberland, where he set up in private practice with an allopath. It was around this time, with growing numbers of medical men turning to homeopathy, that Ransford resolved to test the heresy for himself. He reached out to an old friend from Edinburgh, Dr. John Rutherfurd Russell, and a Newcastle colleague, Dr. Thomas Hayle, both of whom advised him how to proceed with his investigations. The results, in Ransford’s own words, were indisputable:

The writer’s own experience for nearly eighteen months, the irresistible evidence brought under his notice in his researches, made alike in the writings of those opposed as well as of those favourable to homoeopathy, furnished facts upon facts, until an overwhelming array presented themselves. He felt that although there was nothing to prevent his continuing to practise how and in what manner he chose, he was fully convinced that the homoeopathic principle was the correct one, and that his own success in practice upon that principle was the most marked in the history of his professional life; he felt that the only honest course to adopt, was the avowal of his belief. He knew that by so doing he would draw down upon him the anger of his former professional friends, that would for a time at least, endanger his professional reputation, and separate him from all existing professional ties. On the other hand, he dared not relinquish those remedies, the mode of administering which he had found so efficacious in curing rapidly and safely so many forms of disorders. He was told that to avow himself an homoeopathist, would be to take a step fatal to his reputation as a scientific physician, but the words of Dr. Baillie (as truly a scientific man as any of his successors) were strongly impressed upon his mind, “tell me what will do my patients good, and I will give it to them.”

In the wake of his findings and conversion to homeopathy, in 1851 Charles Ransford moved again to York, where practiced at 22 Bootham, and as physician to the re-opened York Homeopathic Dispensary at 29 Parliament Street.

At this point, Ransford incurred the wrath of the orthodox medical establishment he had hitherto so dutifully served:

In 1851, the College came to the realisation that not only a Fellow but a former Treasurer (Charles Ransford) ‘had professed himself a homeopathist’ and settled in a English city.

With James Young Simpson, as President, in the chair a resolution was presented by Professor Christison which included the following:

‘The College expresses severe regret that a Fellow should have been led to take a step so fatal to his reputation in the College and to his character as a scientific physician and instructs the Secretary to transmit to him a copy of the resolution trusting that this may lead him to withdraw from the College.’

Letters were sent to both Charles Ransford and William Henderson. William Henderson, clearly angered by this, replied at length and in unrestrained language.

‘Some parts of these resolutions are so intemperate and insulting as to be discreditable to the body from which they emanate; and though you take pains to inform me that the resolutions, as they stand, were unanimously adopted by the College, I shall do some of the Fellows the justice to believe that they have so much good sense and gentlemanly feeling as to be incapable of impugning the honour of anyone because he differs from them in the choice or dose of a drug.’

Neither Charles Ransford nor William Henderson withdrew from the College, which took no further action and their names remain on the College List of Fellows to this day.

Another Edinburgh medical institution then entered the fray, but with an unsurprisingly familiar dramatis personae. The Edinburgh Medico Chirurgical Society was addressed by James Young Simpson, the text being published subsequently in the monthly Journal of Medical Science and as a pamphlet.

In this he castigated homeopathy as ‘a system of consummate charlatanry’. He bracketed it with Mormonism as a form of heresy; the Christian community was justified in expelling Mormons and the medical community was similarly justified in expelling homeopathists.

Later, the Edinburgh Medico Chirurgical Society approved a motion (proposed by Professor Syme and seconded by James Young Simpson) ‘that William Henderson’s name be deleted from the list of members’.

At the same meeting, in a night of the long knives, William MacDonald, William MacLeod and Charles Ransford were also expelled.

In 1859, Ransford urged his fellow homeopaths to take advantage of The Medical Act and join the London College of Physicians.

After a decade in York, Ransford relocated to Sydenham, Kent, where he practiced at 15 Peak Hill Avenue and was Physician to the Sydenham Homeopathic Dispensary.

Ransford became an active member of the homeopathic medical community, delivering papers at the Manchester Homoeopathic and General Medico Chirurgical Society in 1861, and to the British Homeopathic Society in 1873. He contributed many journal articles, letters, and cases to homeopathic publications, including “Cases of Diabetes Mellitus” and “The Pathogenic Symptoms of Mercurius.”

Charles Ransford died on 11 July 1886, aged 78. As a brother of the Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Ransford was buried three days later in the churchyard of Winchester St Cross With St Faith, Hampshire.

Select Publications:

Of Interest:

James Inglis Ransford M.R.C.S. (29 October 1844- 13 September 1869), son of Charles Ransford, was a ship’s surgeon with the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). He was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1866. J. I. Ransford was also a Freemason, initiated into the Bombay Concord Lodge #757 in June 1869, just three months before his untimely death. Ransford was surgeon aboard the steamship SS. Carnatic that plied the pre-Suez Canal route between Bombay and Suez. On the evening of 12 September, 1869, Carnatic ran aground on a coral reef near Shadwan Island, at the mouth of the Gulf of Suez, in the Red Sea. Thirty one lives were lost when the ship broke apart the following morning, including James Inglis Ransford.

Dr. John Ransford (1801–1869), older brother of Charles Ransford, was Surgeon Major in the Bengal Army.

James Inglis (1813-1851), Charles Ransford’s brother-in-law, was a Scottish allopathic doctor.