James Tyler Kent was born on March 31, 1849 at Woodhull, New York State, in the USA. He studied medicine and qualified as a doctor of medicine at the Faculty of Bellevue Medical College. Afterwards he attended lectures at the Eclectic Medical Institute at Cincinnati, where he was also taught homeopathy, albeit rather superficially, so that he remained unimpressed by this therapeutic method.
Although he was rather undemonstrative, Kent dearly loved his wife and was very concerned when she became ill and he and other physicians were unable to help her. She suffered from weakness, anemia and severe insomnia which confined her to bed for a month. When time passed and her condition worsened, she asked her husband to consult a homeopathic physician who had been recommended to her. Kent agreed, as nothing had been of help so far and his wife’s condition got worse. He decided to attend the consultation, especially as he doubted the efficacy of homeopathy due to the smallness of their applied dose. In the afternoon Dr. Richard Phelan came and stayed for more than an hour, asking questions which Kent found strange and not pertaining to the disease, so that he could not desist to smile incomprehensibly and to shake his head. Dr. Phelan asked in detail for the patient’s history, her state of mind, anxieties, desires for and aversions to food, although she did not suffer from digestive ailments. He asked about her monthly uneasiness, reactions with regard to warmth, cold and seasons etc. He auscultated and examined her thoroughly and finally asked for a glass of water which Kent gave him.
The homeopath put some tiny globules into the water and recommended Kent to give his wife a little spoon every two hours until “she falls asleep“. As she hadn’t slept for several weeks, Kent assumed him to be a bragger or cheater and bid farewell dryly. He moved to the next room to prepare for his lecture and came back after two hours to give her another spoon, unconvinced. However, then he lost himself in his work, and forgot to administer the next dose after another two hours. Only after four hours he remembered her and rapidly went to see her. To his surprise he found his wife sleeping deeply and soundly which hadn’t been the case for a long time, despite several other drugs. The old physician came to visit her each day, and soon Kent’s wife felt better and she fully recovered after some weeks. What no famous physician could reach had been affected by a simple homeopathic practitioner – permanently restoring the health of his wife in a gentle and rapid way.
Kent was deeply impressed. Being an honest and noble character he apologized and confessed to having been skeptical, and how his attitude had been changed through the cure of his wife. Such an outcome could be the result of chance and he asked himself whether homeopathy were a valuable curative method? He decided to study this therapy thoroughly, and finally converted to homeopathy and became one of the most famous homeopaths of the time. Realizing that homeopathy was the only therapeutic method to offer law and principles to follow, he wholeheartedly devoted his life to homeopathy.
Having studied homeopathy in depth Kent pointed out that “homeopathy is an exact science.” There is no remedy for the name of a disease, but there are true specifics for each individual case of disease. Homeopathy applies medicine to the individual personality for which the condition of the individual patient must be known by certain symptoms – those symptoms peculiar to the individual and differing in some way from those of other cases of the same disease. “These symptoms show the individual characteristics of the patient and point unerringly to the curative homeopathic remedy. When these symptoms peculiar to the individual patient are known the homeopathic remedy can be selected that will surely cure every curable disease.”
Thus to cure insomnia or any other condition, requires to individualize the case and to base prescriptions upon the law of similarity of characteristic symptoms, of whose totality the sleep pattern is but a part, which may yield distinctive characteristics. Since sleep symptoms are general symptoms affecting the patient as a whole, they rank high, and are most decisive if they are strange, rare or peculiar.
Kent emphasized the detailed study of the expressions of the whole person which must be given primary importance to understand the nature of the disease. He opined that the whole problem, like any other scientific problem, must be gone into and followed “from generals to particulars”, being in correspondence with his rule of government from center to circumference. There is one center that rules, controls and is supreme. All true diseases flow from center to circumference and the order of repair in the economy is also from center to circumference. Man is prior to organs. What is expressed in parts is always preceded by a deviation in the state of health of the person. Such a deviation can be known only through expressions at the general level. “Without Generals of a case, no man can practice homeopathy; without these he will not be able to individualize and see distinctions.”
With regard to sleep and dreams he recommended we consider the following points when questioning the patient:
Sleep and Dreams
State when and under what circumstances you are abnormally drowsy or sleepy.
State when and under what circumstances you have yawning.
Is the yawning painful or spasmodic?
State all troubles of symptoms occurring before, during or after sleep, or when just falling sleep.
State all troubles that come on just as you waken and how you awaken; what awakens you during the night?
Are you a sound, deep or a light sleeper?
What causes the sleeplessness?
When and under what circumstances are you sleepless?
What seems to keep you awake when first going to bed, or when awaking during the night?
Do you awaken often during the night?
Is the sleep restful and refreshing?
How do you feel when first awaking and on first arising in the morning?
Do you take a nap or sleep during the day?
Do you feel well after a sleep during the day?
Are you easy or hard to awaken?
Do you sleep quietly or toss and roll about during sleep?
Do you like to sleep with your head high or low?
Do you have nightmares?
Do you snore? Loudly?
Do you moan, scream or make other noises during sleep?
Have you sweat during sleep?
Have you grate or grind your teeth during sleep?
Do you dream much?
Do you remember your dreams?
Do the dreams trouble you after waking?
In what part of the night do you dream?
Do you dream the same dream over the same night, or later?
Are the dreams confused, pleasant, horrible, frightful, disgusting, disagreeable, vexatious, vivid?
Do you dream of accidents, animals, cats, dogs, blood, business, church, death or corpses, dancing, danger, drinking, drowning, eating, falling, fire, flying, fruit, ghosts, horses, houses, being hungry, lightning, misfortunes, money, murder, of people, praying, being pursued, of quarrelling, riding, robberies, sexual pleasure, shooting, sickness, snakes, snow, talking, being thirsty, travelling, trees, urinating, vomiting, of water, weeping?
Many sleepless and other ill patients have found alleviation with homeopathy, yet homeopathy still lacks universal acceptance. Kent lamented that homeopathy was not universally accepted because there are many people who can’t believe in a grand truth despite the evidence, and they tend to ridicule that which cannot be understood. Nevertheless, there are refined and educated minds which have opened to study its principles. Those who really love homeopathy have the unlimited desire to refer homeopathy to their colleagues and patients despite often finding resistance.
Kent declined other medical methods because of their inconstancy and constantly changing instructions. Homeopathy treats the fundamental cause of diseases and can therefore be truly curative. Having seen his wife cured by homeopathy, Kent was motivated to study homeopathy in depth and devote himself entirely to this healing art. He knew that mastering homeopathy requires much effort, dedication and an indomitable will, which is worthwhile when striving to alleviate the suffering of mankind. Kent was an exceptional and passionate teacher and practitioner who knew that: “Homeopathy will develop more rapidly when homeopaths are true geniuses of the homeopathic principles.”
Footnotes What the doctor needs to know in order to make a successful prescription, p.3  What the doctor needs to know in order to make a successful prescription, p.3  J.T. Kent, Lesser Writings, Clinical Cases, New Remedies, Aphorisms and Precepts.  J.T. Kent, Lesser Writings, Clinical Cases, New Remedies, Aphorisms and Precepts
J.T. Kent, Zur Theorie der Homöopathie, Haug Verlag
Singh, Pioneers of homeopathy, B.Jain Publishers
J.T. Kent, What the doctor needs to know in order to make a successful prescription, B.Jain Publishers
J.T. Kent, Lesser Writings, Clinical Cases, New Remedies, Aphorisms and Precepts