In commencing the third volume of The American Homoeopathic Review we have to deplore the loss of one whose name was a tower of strength to the publication, and whose active aid would have insured its success, our dear colleague and senior editor, Dr. B. F. JOSLIN.
Those who knew his purity of soul, his sterling justness of thought and action, his exactness in speech and writing, his widely diversified, clear and accurate knowledge of science in general and especially of the principles and practice of Homoeopathy, and above all, and through all, his unvarying kindliness of heart, can well appreciate our sense of bereavement.
The following extracts from an address delivered before the Homoeopathic Societies of New York and Kings Co., on the 10th of April, 1862, by Dr. B. F. Bowers, of New York, formerly partner in business and always an intimate personal friend of Dr. Joslin, will express better than any words of ours could do, the extent of the loss which the community and our school of medicine have sustained.
By a rule of the Homoeopathic Medical Society of New York, it is made the duty of the President of the Society to deliver an annual public address on the 10th of April, the anniversary of the birth of Hahnemann. He who last was elected to that honorable office, no doubt would have performed the duty with his usual ability, but his work is done and he has gone to his reward. By your action the speaker has been “selected to do public homage to” his memory — “the memory of our lamented and distinguished Colleague Benjamin F. Joslin, M.D., by a memorial of his useful and honorable life and career.”
Benjamin Franklin Joslin was born at Exeter, R. I, in 1796, on the 25th of November. Homoeopathy was first promulgated in Germany in the same year. Thus he was co-eval with the system which so largely occupied his attention in after life, and which he so ably illustrated and defended.
He assisted in the cultivation of his father's farm and showed considerable taste for agriculture, but not enough to devote his life to it. From early boyhood, his candor, truth and honesty were proverbial. He showed such a decided taste for study and applied himself so assiduously, and seemed to have so little inclination for the amusements and sports of boys of his own age, that he was marked as singularly abstracted. He might have been seen, tending his father's sheep, with book in hand, intent upon his studies; and at the evening fireside, by the light of a pine knot, poring over his Greek. In his minority, he relinquished his interest in the paternal estate in consideration of having his time for study. He was soon qualified for teaching, and for several winters taught school, at the same time pursuing his own studies. He was considered one of the best teachers, always insisting upon the faithful employment of the time of his pupils in their studies, and enforcing, so far as his influence could extend, their strict observance of truth and honesty. With him the man or boy who would talk merely for amusement, without regard to truth or probability, was entitled to neither credit nor respect.
Such was his proficiency and aptitude for study that after a year's attendance at the Cambridge Academy, under David Chassel, A. M., and Alexander Bullions, D. D., he was prepared to enter the senior class in Union College, where he graduated in 1821. After leaving College he followed the occupation of teaching as principal of the Schenectady Academy, 1821-22, and as Tutor in Union College, 1822-24. He studied medicine in the City of New York, 1824-26, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he graduated in 1826.
Having finished the regular course of professional study and being declared by diploma, properly qualified and duly authorized to practice and teach, he accepted the professorship of Chemistry and the Natural Sciences in the Polytechny, Chittenango, where he practised and lectured the same year. In January 1827, he was called to the Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Union College, which he occupied for ten years. He filled the office with marked ability and at once took rank as a man of science. At this time also he was happily married to Phoebe Titus, a young lady of cultivated mind, who could sympathize with his devotion to science and aid him in his literary career.
He was strongly attached to his profession, and the hours not occupied with college duties were devoted to medical practice, as he intended to make that the business of his life. In 1835, he moved from the College into the city and gave up a part of his recitations in College for the purpose of attending to practice. For a number of years he gave lectures on Anatomy and Physiology with dissections. One of these lectures, Physiological Explanation of the Beauty of Form, published in the Transactions of the State Medical Society, is a very ingenious attempt to give an original and satisfactory explanation of the beauty of form on principles purely physiological. “It is based on the proposition that the action of every muscle is attended with a sensation which is at first agreeable, but which, if the action is continued for a short time with intensity and without intermission becomes painful.”
In scientific and professional journals and in the transactions of philosophical and medical societies, a considerable number of articles from his pen have appeared, consisting chiefly of original observations and theories in Physics, Meteorology, Mechanics and Medical Science. He had a taste for Mechanics and possessed inventive genius. Some valuable mechanical improvements now in general use were invented by him. He attached the highest importance to facts, and in all his articles his reasoning is based upon admitted facts, or upon original experiments and observations generally made by himself and brought forward to illustrate some law or explain some principle.
The operations of his mind were quick and logical, although his mathematical studies and the habit of looking all round a subject and considering its various relations, sometimes gave an appearance of slowness which really was owing to the comprehensiveness of his mind and to a wise circumspection. His character was pure, without reproach, a blessed inheritance for his children, a bright example for all. He had a quick perception of the ludicrous and a quiet humour, which was sometimes very amusing, and which he could turn against an adversary with great effect. He spoke and wrote with care, gave force and precision to his expressions, and conveyed his thoughts with great clearness.
Kind and benevolent, with a strong sense of duty, he willingly wronged no one but rendered justice to all. He set a high value upon time. Every hour had its appropriate duty, and every duty its appropriate hour. His industry was remarkable. No man more faithfully discharged his duty to his patients, examining with critical care and ascertaining all the facts, and giving to every symptom its due influence in the selection of the remedy. Fair and honorable in consultation, no one had cause to fear any design on his part to supplant or injure a professional brother. He promptly declined any case to which, from previous engagements he felt unable to do justice.
But his scientific reputation however, had preceded him and led to his appointment, in 1838, to the Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in the University of the City of New York, which he held until 1844.
Believing that I should be doing the State good service, in 1839, I was induced to undertake a course of experiments for the purpose of proving the fallacy of Homoeopathy, and in order to make the proof conclusive I determined to make the experiments fair and thorough. Very much to my surprise and very much against my inclination, as the result of my experiments, I became an Homoeopathist. In 1840, our partnership was dissolved. Dr. Joslin was prejudiced against Homoeopathy and of course was not convinced by my experience. He believed Homoeopathy would die out in ten years and said it would be very much against the reputation of any physician to have had anything to do with it.
I knew from my own experience that this was a grand mistake, that being founded in nature Homoeopathy was eternal; that the evidence of its truth and importance was perfectly conclusive, never having failed to convince ever competent inquirer who made the necessary investigation. With perfect confidence, therefore, knowing his ability and honesty, I assured him that he could very soon satisfy himself of the truth of Homoeopathy, and that the easiest way of testing it was to try it on himself.
A physician of his acquaintance having published an attack on Homoeopathy wrote to Dr. Joslin for his opinion of the system, intending to publish it. With his characteristic circumspection, Dr. Joslin was unwilling to publish an opinion which was not founded on a knowledge of the subject. He determined therefore to make the experiment in the way proposed to him.
“I took,” he says, “the third attenuation of a medicine, and avoiding the study of its alleged symptoms as recorded in books, I made a record of all the new symptoms which I experienced. When this record was completed, I examined a printed list of symptoms, and was surprised to find a remarkable coincidence between them and those I had experienced. I at first thought it probably an accidental coincidence. I repeated the medicine, and again found a coincidence equally striking. Another medicine was then tried, with similar precautions and similar results. There was a new set of symptoms, very different from the former, but generally corresponding with the printed symptoms of the last medicine taken. Thus the evidence accumulated, from week to week, until I became thoroughly convinced that such a number of coincidences could not, on the theory of probabilities, be accidental. There were thousands of chances to one against such a supposition. I knew that the attenuated medicines were efficient, and the Homoeopathic Materia Medica, so far as I had tested it, substantially true.
“The incredibility of the power of the small doses and of the attenuations, had been my greatest stumbling block. This being removed by actual and direct experiment, I felt confidence in Hahnemann and justified in making therapeutic experiments to test his grand law of healing. The result was equally satisfactory, and gave me a firm confidence — which every year's practice has tended to strengthen — in the exact truth and inestimable value of the homoeopathic law, and the superiority of the homoeopathic method of practice over every other system and combination of systems.”
These experiments were made in 1842, after sixteen years experience in Allopathic practice. From this time a new field was opened to him. Here was an improvement in his chosen profession which far exceeded his most sanguine hopes. His mind was so strongly impressed by his first trials that he ever after attached the highest importance to the proving of drugs as the best way of convincing unbelievers and as a means of advancing the art. Having arrived at the truth in this practical way, no merely theoretical objections had power to disturb his faith.
In 1842 Dr. Joslin was elected President of the New Fork Homoeopathic Physician's Society, and in 1844 he resigned his Professorship in the University of New York and devoted himself exclusively to medical practice to the close of his life. The numerous articles on Homoeopathy from his pen are among the ablest and most important of his writings.
His theory of potentization he believed to be an addition to physical science, and he said, “the knowledge of the process invented by Hahnemann, will give Homoeopathy rank in physical science.” The volume on the Homoeopathic Treatment of Epidemic Cholera, by him, is a standard work, has gone to a second edition and been republished in Europe. His volume entitled Principles of Homoeopathy in a series of lectures, also republished in Europe, is a masterly explanation and defence of the homoeopathic doctrines which will place the author in honorable companionship with the great founder of the system, Hahnemann.
In the affairs of his country he felt a deep interest and by his steady devotion to justice and liberty, was true to his puritan blood. His general health was good and seemed to give promise of continued life and usefulness, although for many years he occasionally had indications of disease of the heart.
On the 25th of last July a slight attack of paralysis gave the first alarming indication that his constitution was breaking down. This attack soon passed off, but left a debility from which he never fully recovered. This was followed by a heavy blow on the 27th of August in the death of his wife, a companion and friend to whom he was ardently attached and who for many years had been so devoted to him. When anticipating her death, he said they would not be separated long, he should soon follow her.
On Sunday the 22nd December, he felt unusually well, as I learn from his son Dr. B. F. Joslin, jr., attended church in the morning and after a very moderate dinner was attacked, while in the act of lying down, with a severe pain in the spine between the scapulae, prostration and cool perspiration. The prostration went off but the pain continued; it prevented him from lying down and seemed to induce him to move, as he walked up and down the room for four or five hours, afterwards walked up-stairs, laid on the bed and walked alternately until about seven p.m., when the pains became intense so as to extort cries, and as they increased apparently took away his breath; as respiration ceased, action of the heart stopped, he became pulseless and blueish. Profuse cold sweat broke out generally, spasms drew the head to the right, eyes were fixed and he seemed to be dying. He gradually recovered, but was much prostrated, and it was some time before his mind became clear. Monday, 23d, pain was moderate. Tuesday, 24th, had three paroxysms in the twenty-four hours, but on Wednesday and Thursday, 25th and 26th, was more comfortable. Friday, 27th, improving in strength. Saturday, 28th, p.m., threatened with paroxysm which was prevented. Sunday 29th; last night restless but no pain; thought himself better. Monday, 30th, was pretty comfortable but was evidently doubtful of recovering. I was with him through the evening, until one o'clock, a. m. He listened with interest to the reading of Mr. Seward's letter to Lord Lyons on the Trent affair, which he desired to hear and which he thought an able paper; asked for the Manual and looked out some symptoms for himself, walked across the room, laid down and slept quietly. After one o'clock part of the time he was restless and said we must study his case over again in the morning. At half-past five, a. m., he started up with dyspnea, moaned as if in pain, breathing became more and more labored, and about six o'clock on Tuesday morning he ceased to breathe.
During his short sickness, when not overpowered by the severe paroxysms, his mind was active and clear; he enjoyed the society and conversation of friends and the consolation of religion. Some medical attendant was with him almost constantly, as it was feared every paroxysm might prove fatal.
The post mortem examination made by Dr. Wetmore, in the presence of Drs. Bayard, Belcher, Gray, Joslin, Kellogg, H. M. Smith, T. F. Smith, Bowers, and Mr. J. T. S. Smith, showed extensive ossification of the Aorta, and as the immediate cause of death, rupture of the Aorta near its arch.
The worldly wise may doubt the policy of his course, but wisdom is justified of her children, and in her bright record will be found inscribed the name of the skilful physician, the honest man, the sincere christian, Benjamin Franklin Joslin.
|The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 03 No. 01, 1862, pages 001-009
|Life and Character of Dr. Joslin.
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