Comparative Materia Medica

Comparative Materia Medica

  • Ernest A. Farrington, MD


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While arguably limited in the range of ailments discussed, the remedy differentials and therapeutic hints are invaluable.
553 pp hb

Dr. Ernest A. Farrington, M.D.

(1847 - 1885)

E. A. Farrington was born in Williamsburg, NY, on January 1, 1847. Dr. Farrington manifested an aptitude for study from an early age. He had a ready discernment and a retentive memory that placed him first among his schoolmates.

He graduated from the Philadelphia High School at the age of nineteen, attaining the highest marks that anyone had ever achieved.

He began his study of medicine under the preceptorship of his brother, Harvey W. Farrington, MD. In 1866 he graduated from the Homoeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1867 he entered the Hahnemann Medical College, graduating in 1868. He entered practice immediately after his graduation, establishing himself on Mount Vernon Street.

His preeminence among his classmates indicated his future calling as a teacher. Within a year after leaving college he was engaged as lecturer on forensic medicine in the same institution, and still later transferred to the chair of pathology and diagnosis.

These positions were stepping stones to that most important and difficult department of homoeopathic medicine, the chair of materia medica, to which he was elected in 1874 upon the resignation of Prof. Guernsey.

Dr. Farrington was a member of the State Society and joined the American Institute of Homoeopathy in 1872. In 1884 the Institute appointed him a member of its Editorial Consulting Committee on the new Cyclopaedia of Drug Pathogenesy. In all these tasks he was an assiduous and conscientious worker. In debate he was an active speaker, logical in argument, choice in expression.

Farrington carried out deep and thorough research and study upon every involved question in the subject of homoeopathy; the law, dosage, and potency questions all were subjects of much interest. Above all, his focus lay in the study of the Materia Medica.

His daily association with Hering quickened this his natural desire, to the point where Hering said, "When I am gone Farrington must finish my Materia Medica."

His labors in Materia Medica were not restricted to simply reviewing old provings. He personally supervised provings of both old and new drugs.

The most prominent feature of his teaching was considered to have been his ability to thoroughly analyze the specific drug action, showing not only the superficial but also the deeper relationship of symptoms. Family and class relationship of drugs was a particular interest. In fact, his Clinical Materia Medica was the first classic in this field.

His writings all bear the mark of a superior mind. Already in 1871, barely three years after his graduation, he was writing about the philosophical elucidation of drug prescribing, in language indicating a great depth of knowledge. His articles were published in the American Journal of Homoeopathic Materia Medica, the Hahnemannian Monthly, the North American Journal of Homoeopathy, and other journals.

In December 1879, when the Hahnemannian Monthly was purchased by the Hahnemann Club of Philadelphia, he was selected by his colleagues of the Club as the sole editor of the journal, but on account of poor health and multiplicity of duties he declined the offer.

Later, at the earnest solicitation of the Club, he accepted the position of Contributing Editor, which position he filled until the time of his death. His last article, a book review, was written but a few weeks prior to his decease.

In December 1884, a neglected cold and subsequent unavoidable exposure resulted in an attack of acute laryngitis. Farrington continued his class lectures and thus a severe bronchitis developed. He then sailed for Europe in the Spring of 1885 with the hope that change of air and scene would cure him.

But the disease steadily progressed and he returned to Philadelphia, working until the end of his days. Some of his lay friends strongly urged him to seek the care of a prominent allopath. This he positively refused, afterwards remarking,

"If I must die, I want to die a Christian."

He died shortly afterwards on December 15, 1885.


Farrington, a protege of Hering, died at the early age of 38 in 1885.

This edition was edited by Lilienthal and is comprised of Farrington's lectures to his class at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia that were "reported phonographically."

The material is presented in "family" order.

A lecture on Spiders -- The Arachnida
A lecture on the Compositae (Arnica, Aremisia, Millefolium, etc.)
The Umbelliferae
The Acids
The Ammonium preparations, etc.

In the 72 transcribed lectures, he discusses the topic and then compares the remedies to others -- a comparative materia medica. The lecture on Halogens includes a part about Spongia -- as it is rich in iodine and shares many symptoms of that group.

A second edition was published by Hahnemann Printing House in 1890.

Julian Winston writes:
With the current trend to looking at the "families" of remedies, it is interesting to reexamine this work and see that there is not much new, but a lot to be re-discovered.

The Heritage of Homoeopathic Literature
copyright 2001 by Julian Winston
Reprinted with the permission of the author