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September 2019

Korot. 1995 ; 11(): 54-65.

Orthodoxy and reform: differing medical practices in a Glasgow Jewish Victorian family.

Collins K.

Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Glasgow.

Medical botanists formed a major and growing element in the delivery of medical care in Victorian Britain, supplementing the provision made by qualified physicians. Medical reform, introduced into Britain from the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century, combined botanical treatment, including a strong emphasis on the use of lobelia, with physiotherapy. The Levenston family in Glasgow was represented among both qualified orthodox medical practitioners and unqualified practitioners of medical botany. Samuel Levenston graduated M.D. at the University of Glasgow in 1859 and had a long career in medical practice in Glasgow after years of work as an unqualified practitioner. His father and brothers were active in medical botany in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin, often posing as doctors but without appropriate qualifications. This paper examines the history of the Levenstons and contrasts the practices of the different members of the family, showing the relationships between a university-trained physician and medical chemists. The surviving Glasgow pharmacopeia of Solomon (Alexander) Levenston illustrates the style of his medical treatments, setting the practice of his medical botany into context.

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