John Wesley - a man of medicine

Posted by Claire Musters  ·  Be the first to comment

Founding father of Methodism John Wesley is famous for his religious work, but he was also a notable medical pioneer - it has been revealed.

John Wesley

The Methodist Heritage Committee has commissioned 'Wesley and Well-being', an exhibition based on Wesley's own medicinal manual, 'Primitive Physic' – which was so popular in its day that it was republished 23 times.

The exhibition will initially travel to six Methodist Heritage sites in Epworth, Bristol, Launceston, Englesea Brook, London and Newcastle during April–September.

The Methodist Heritage Committee were keen to show this aspect of Wesley's work during the run up to the Olympics and Jo Hibbard, the Heritage Officer behind the exhibition, has been supported by Ish Lennox, the Methodist Church's Olympics and Paralympics Co-ordinator and multi-denominational partnership More than Gold.

Ish Lennox said: "The exhibition is a fantastic way to connect our rich heritage with this exciting moment in history. As a result of our engagement with the Games we hope to create a better sporting legacy. This exhibition connects our past, present and future in terms of Methodist engagement with sport."

During his lifetime Wesley opened free clinics in London and dispensaries in London, Bristol and Newcastle. He tried to make all his remedies cheap and easy to get hold of.

His 'cures' ranged from advising people to exercise around two to three hours a day in order to "soften the evils of life" to drying and powdering a toad into small pills in order to help ease asthma.

Although some of his 'cures' were denounced by 18th century critics his thinking was occasionally ahead of its time. For example honey is used in many of his remedies, even though its antiseptic and antibacterial properties have only been recently confirmed by science.

Jo Hibbard, Methodist Heritage Officer, said: "When Wesley's Primitive Physic was published in 1747, doctors were still more likely to kill at a price than cure for a fee. Wesley wanted to put the knowledge of curing diseases into ordinary people's hands. Some of his remedies, such as holding a live puppy over the stomach to cure colic, sound comic to us today. But, to Wesley's credit, if he thought a critic's claim was well-founded, then he would make changes in the next edition."

The exhibition explores both Wesley's spiritual and medical advice. There is a free leaflet that supports the display and explains how the Methodist Church has always had a holistic approach, including engaging with communities through sport and hospitality.

30th March

March 30th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Claire Musters

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