Homeopathy 2005; 94(04): 267-270
DOI: 10.1016/j.homp.2005.08.015
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Dennis Somper

6 April 1922–28 May 2005A true and perfect gentleman
Tony Pinkus
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
18 December 2017 (online)

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Dennis Somper passed away at the end of May aged 83, having retired a mere six months earlier from his beloved practices in Wimpole Street and Welwyn Garden City. It was a job he loved so much that he vowed he would never retire.

His valiant struggle against his short but debilitating final illness was faced with dignity and humility so typical of the man and his life. He was, perhaps, the most modest and kindest man I have ever known—loved by his patients, generous with time for others and was in return rewarded with a long and satisfying career. He loved every day and felt for those people who were trapped by their occupation. It is ironic, those from whom we learn the most may not be outstanding academically, but deliver something more vital to the human spirit. Dennis was one such person and his life was less about what he did than about what he was. His strength was as a truly caring physician, rather than an academic being, who endeared himself to all. Open and honest with his patients and knowing vulnerability to be a strength rather than a weakness, he gained huge love and respect of patients and peers.

During the war he served as a navigator in the RAF dropping agents into Norway, and later in Transport Command. One of the last batch of ex-servicemen, he was 29 when he qualified from St Mary's in 1951, the same year he married Thelma. Secretary of the Students Union and cricket captain of St Mary's, he also played rugby for Middlesex.

His early career as a GP in Welwyn Garden City resembled Hahnemann's. A caring doctor who had become disillusioned with the limitations and harshness of allopathy searching for an alternative solution. Enter the redoubtable Marjery Blackie. After attending one of her courses he converted to homoeopathy, which in those less enlightened times was considerably less popular than it is now. Inspired and convinced he battled against the rebukes from friends and peers.

It was not until his mid-forties that he opened the Wimpole Street practice. Ever the handyman, he was affixing the name plate to the practice door when a passing doctor stopped to ask him what he was doing. On hearing the word homeopathy the man laughed and said he would go out of business within the month. Forty years later Dennis had the last laugh having the largest dedicated patient list of his peers.

In Welwyn Garden City a friendship with Donald Foubister led to a remarkable knowledge of the Bowel Nosodes, which he employed to great effect. He was unquestionably the leading exponent of this area although too modest to publish but one article in the British Homeopathic Journal[ 1 ] and an odd lecture, under duress, at the RLHH.

What made him a renowned homoeopath was his accomplishment at case taking, the patience to listen to his patients without interrupting their flow and the gift of eliciting unsolicited information. He would sit with a patient, for many hours in silence if need be, until he was confident that they were out of the woods, or he had a grasp of the case. A lady in acute pain once consulted him. He asked her to describe her pain which she did and then remained silent. Dennis sat there patiently in silence with her waiting for the next unsolicited symptom. Eventually she exploded and thumped the desk ‘Don’t just sit there, do something!’ Dennis memorable response is a great lesson ‘I gave her Chamomilla and it did something!’

For over 20 years I spoke to him, several times a week, when he rang through prescriptions. It was always a treat brightening my day to bathe in his generosity and learn from his modesty. We discussed cases and remedies and always had a good laugh at the end of our chats. Once a year I invited him to dine at a Royal Warrant Holder's banquet at which he conveyed avuncular affection, although his driving there and back in a clapped out Bristol was a different experience altogether!

At 80 he was up on the roof of his beloved house, which he adored as much as his practice. A devoted husband to wife Thelma, father to his two sons, two daughters and grandfather to eight grandchildren, he enjoyed a great life. Refreshingly open he would discuss matters of sex or philosophy with his grandchildren without the slightest embarrassment. I miss our weekly chats and his quaint Somperisms like ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’, but most of all I miss my friend.