Liverpool Hahnemann HospitalWilliam Hitchman M.D. M.R.C.S. F.L.S. (1823 – 12 February 1888) was a British orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy to become a Physician and Surgeon at the Liverpool Homeopathic Dispensary. Prior to this, Hitchman was Physician to the Glastonbury Homeopathic Dispensary, and before that briefly worked as Physician at the London Sanatorium, or Home in Sickness in Regent’s Park, and as District Medical Officer at the Cirencester Union and the Workhouse Infirmary.

Hitchman was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and was a member of the National Institute of Medicine, Surgery and Midwifery, founded in 1846. Among his many affiliations, he was President of the British Medical Reform Association, a Fellow of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh, an honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians, New York, and honorary Member of the National Eclectic Medical Association of the U.S.A. Hitchman was also a longstanding opponent of mandatory vaccinations.

Hitchman’s eclectic interests extended beyond medicine. In 1869, he was the founder of the Liverpool Anthropological Society. He was a friend of Liverpool Mesmeric Healer, James Coates, and was a leading figure of the metaphysical Liverpool Psychological Society. Hitchman was a committed Spiritualist, and in 1875 was a Vice-President of the British National Association of Spiritualists, founded in Liverpool in 1873.

During his time in Liverpool Hitchman lived at 2 Harford Street, at 2 Daulby Street, London Road, at 36 Brunswick Road, at 29 Erskine Street, Islington Square, and at Pembroke Place.

William Hitchman was born in Northleach, Gloucestershire in 1823. His father, maltster and merchant John Hitchman of Kempsford Manor House, was from a notable family that had been in the area for five centuries.

Hitchman’s early life is not well documented but, as was then customary for young men with ambitions of a medical career, for five years he was apprenticed to a local general practitioner. It was during this period that Hitchman discovered homeopathy. As early as February 1839, while covering the absence of the Northleach Poor Law Union Medical Officer, Hitchman read Samuel Hahnemann‘s Organon and also witnessed firsthand the successful application of homeopathic remedies.

Hitchman possessed an interest in psychology, and this led him to spend a short period on the medical staff at the Fairford Asylum for the Insane. Following this, his formal medical training was conducted at Guy’s Hospital in London.

In April, 1844, William Hitchman married Anne Mary Charlotte Raven (1823 – 1884). They had four children: Ellen Agnes Gertrude (1846 – 1855), Mary Ann (1850 – 1939), Charles (1854 – 1855), and Charlotte Emily (1854 – 1889).

In July, 1844, Hitchman was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1851, after visiting “the chief continental universities in France, Holland and Germany,” Hitchman was awarded his M.D. from the University of Erlangen, Bavaria, the alma mater of Samuel Hahnemann.

By 1851, William Hitchman was residing in Cirencester where, in 1853, he was listed as Eastern District Medical Officer for the Cirencester Union Board of Poor Law Guardians. He worked here for seven years, while also lecturing publicly in London and the provinces on a variety of eclectic subjects, including homeopathy, hydropathy, Turkish Baths, and botanic practice.

In 1853, Hitchman also appears to have been practicing as an homeopathic surgeon in Glastonbury. A notice in February that year recorded that every Friday morning he visited Yeovil, “in compliance with the wishes of numerous patients,” where he could be consulted at a “Mrs King’s, Middle Street, from 12 till 4 o’clock p.m.”

A bankruptcy notice in July that year recorded Hitchman as residing in Glastonbury. He left the area later that year to start afresh, arriving in Liverpool where he set up in practice as an homeopathic surgeon in 1854.

Hitchman was added to the Medical Register in 1859. However, in 1863, the General Medical Council rejected his M.D. from the University of Bavaria. In response, Hitchman took the unusual step of publishing an impressive page full of testimonials in the May 17th 1862 edition of the British Medical Journal Advertiser. Nevertheless, the GMC removed his name from the Medical Register.

In appeal, in December 1863, Hitchman wrote to The Lancet, defending the status of the Erlangen M.D., and the reputation of the university. His letter was published on 2 January 1864:

SIR, – As another of your countless “regular subscribers,” permit me to say that the expense of graduation at the Protestant University of Bavaria, above named, is not £18 only, but £25. Any legally qualified medical practitioner can obtain it in an ad eundem manner, provided he can write a satisfactory dissertation, give proof of an adequate professional education, and furnish testimonials of his general intellectual and moral proficiency from men of acknowledged reputation. In this way, at least, I know it was successfully sought by Pereira, Ashwell, Waller, and a host of other talented physicians in this country, as well as in Scotland and Ireland; in fact, none but well qualified persons can obtain this diploma, except by fraudulent means, for all the previous letters-testimonial are recited in the Doctor’s degree of the Medical Faculty thus conferred, as well as the nature and merits of the original thesis. The degree of M.D. is not, as with us, the same for all; but, on the contrary, special for each individual, and granted to him for reasons therein stated and printed! Application should be made, in the first instance, to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (post paid), University of Erlangen, Bavaria.

I need hardly add that many celebrated names have been, and still are, connected with it in every department of literature and science, and that it would, in my judgment, amply repay a visit from your correspondent. The University is, indeed, a splendid establishment, having a noble and richly-stocked library of far more than 100,000 valuable books, a fine museum, botanic garden of unrivaled excellence in medicinal plants, together with large and interesting hospitals, in the midst of a handsome and elegant town, on the Regnitz, with wide streets and good houses.

I would observe, in conclusion, that there are few educated men in England who have not heard or read something of the Erlangen professors, and formed some notion of them, however indefinite, as theologians, anatomists, pathologists, philosophers, pantheists, or patriots – men possessed of a stoical moral nature, and practical self-devotion to high purposes, such as we find but too few of in any age or country.

Hitchman’s entreaties partially succeeded and his name continued to appear in the Medical Register from 1863, although without acknowledgment of his M.D. qualification from Erlangen.

Throughout his life Hitchman remained an avid reformer. As President at the Annual Conference of the British Medical Reform Association, held in Sheffield in July, 1874, Hitchman oversaw a discussion that unanimously agreed on the necessity of women being educated to practice medicine. His reforming tendencies were also expressed in his apprehension about vaccinations, as in a letter he wrote to The Anti Vaccinator, published on October 7th, 1871:

… I have been acquainted with the morbid effects of vaccination for nearly 40 years, and have witnessed crowds of cases, both in hospitals and private practice, analogous to the Guy’s Hospital model; but lest my testimony may not be deemed sufficiently impartial or unbiased, I shall quote from the records of the Smallpox Hospital, to prove that pure lymph, even in the hands of MR. MARSON himself, is occasionally attended with very impure consequences.

M. A. W., aged 4, a fine child, was vaccinated by MR. MARSON in five places on the left arm, the poor child at the time being in perfect health, on the 19th May. The arms soon became severely inflamed, and spots of purpura appeared on the face. The vesicles on the eighth day appeared dark and filled with blood, and numerous effusions were dispersed over the entire body. The areola assumed a mahogany appearance.

In fact, the vaccine vesicles were jet black with fearful blotches—worse, I think, than the eruption of small pox itself— dispersed (as I have said) over the whole body of this unhappy child thus “protected” by a paternal Government from disease; more especially involving the face, neck, and arms, and over the skin, together with bleeding from the left ear and nostril. Enough, and to spare, of these morbid phenomena now propagated by Acts of Parliament.”

Hitchman was an eclectic homeopath, a broad-mindedness that opened him to criticism from opponents of homeopathy. Nevertheless, he was a committed defender of homeopathy, and contributed a number of papers, articles and letters to homeopathic publications, including “Homeopathy and Allopathy: A Contrast,” “What is Homeopathy,” “Observations on Melaena,” and “Popular Lectures on Homeopathy.” He was also regularly published in both professional and metaphysical journals, including The Family Doctor, The Platonist, and Spiritualist paper The Herald of Progress.

Hitchman’s dedication to Spiritualism was highlighted in a brief biography in the first volume of The Light, in July 1881. Described as a “veteran Spiritualist,” and a master of seven or eight languages, Hitchman was applauded for having “passed through the various phases of Spiritualism,” in the process “sacrificing his time, money, professional and social welfare, preferring ostracism and loss of worldly goods rather than moral cowardice.”

William Hitchman was widely regarded as “a hard-working surgeon.” In addition to his extensive Liverpool medical practice and hospital duties, including serving as Consulting Surgeon for the Leeds Public Hospital for Cancer, Scrofula, and Diseases of the Skin, he also delivered an astonishing series of five hundred “Sunday Lectures, or Philosophy for the People,on a range of topics, some even presented in Sanskrit and other languages!

William Hitchman died at his Phythian Street, Liverpool home on 12 February 1888, aged 65. He was laid to rest at the Liverpool Necropolis (Low Hill Cemetery).

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Of Interest:

John Hitchman M.R.C.S. (c. 1805 – 1867) [no evident relation] was a British orthodox Surgeon and Hydropath who converted to homeopathy late in his medical career to become a founder and committee member of the Midland Homeopathic Medical Society. He spent most of his career in Leamington, where he established a Hydropathic Establishment, the Arboretum and combined hydropathy and homeopathy in his practice with colleague John Stuart Sutherland.

John Hitchman M.R.C.P. (1816 – 1893), possibly the brother of William Hitchman, was an orthodox physician and early psychologist who spent much of his career as medical superintendent at the Derbyshire County Lunatic Asylum.