Thomas Allinson

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Thomas R. Allinson.jpg

Thomas Richard Allinson (1858 – 1918) was a British doctor, dietetic reformer, businessman and journalist. He was a proponent of whole grain (or "wholemeal") bread consumption. His name is still used today for a bread popular in Europe, Allinson bread.[1]

Biography[edit]

Allinson was born in the Hulme district of Manchester on 19 May 1858. He went to school in Lancaster and Manchester and at age fifteen began work as a chemist's assistant. With money he saved and financial help from his stepfather, he was able to attend the extramural medical school in Edinburgh, which was less expensive than the University medical school. He graduated as a Licenciate of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh (LRCP, LRCS) in 1879 at the age of 21 years. After assistantships in Hull and the East End of London he established his own practice in Marylebone in 1885.

During the 1880s Allinson developed his theory of medicine, which he called Hygienic Medicine.[2] In place of orthodox medicine, he promoted health through diet, exercise, fresh air and bathing. He advocated a vegetarian diet and the avoidance of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. He especially promoted the benefits of stone-ground whole grain breads. He opposed the use of drugs by doctors, many of which at that time were ineffective and toxic and was a lifelong opponent of compulsory vaccination against smallpox. He became medical editor of the Weekly Times and Echo in 1885, for which he wrote over 1000 articles during his life,[3] as well as answering readers' medical queries.

He wrote a number of books and pamphlets directed at a general rather than medical readership, including A System of Hygienic Medicine (1886), How to avoid Vaccination (1888), The Advantage of Wholemeal Bread, Medical Essays and A Book for Married Women (1894) and books on stomach diseases, consumption (tuberculosis), rheumatism, vegetarian cooking and healthy diet. He gave frequent public lectures throughout the country propounding his ideas. In one of his books, The Advantages of Wholemeal Bread (1889), he proposed that whole grain bread was healthier than white (or refined) bread. He believed that smoking was a cause of cancer, which was a radical idea at the time. Allinson regularly sought publicity for his theories and practices in the press and directed his energies not just towards his colleagues but directly to the public.

His views often brought him into conflict with the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the General Medical Council, particularly his opposition to doctors' frequent use of toxic drugs, his opposition to vaccination and his self-promotion in the press.[4] In 1892 he was struck off the Medical Register. Despite this he continued to practise and indeed maintained he had the largest medical practice in England.

His Book for Married Women advocated equality of women and men, the right of a woman to choose the size of her family and birth control. For this he was prosecuted and convicted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1901. In 1892 he had bought a stone grinding flour mill in Bethnal Green and founded The Natural Food Company. The purpose of the company was to sell healthy foods. A bakery came shortly afterwards.

During World War I, the food value of whole grain bread was recognised. Allinson was offered the right to re-register as a doctor but refused. His company flourished from the increased demand for whole-grain bread and meal. After his death, the company grew (two more stone-grinding mills were purchased in Newport, Monmouthshire and in 1921 Castleford, Yorkshire). The mills stand to this day.

Bread[edit]

"Wholemeal Bread"
Caricature of Allinson in Vanity Fair, 4 October 1911

Allinson's original bread recipe (100% whole grain flour, no fat, less yeast, more water) is still used today, though some lovers of Allinson bread report that it's not as hearty nowadays as it used to be.[5] The advertising slogan for the brand since the 1980s is "Bread wi' nowt [with nothing] taken out".

Vanity Fair[edit]

In 1911 Allinson bought the failing magazine Vanity Fair from Frank Harris. He failed to revive its fortunes and in 1914 Vanity Fair merged with Hearth and Home.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.allinsonflour.co.uk/index.cfm
  2. ^ Pepper S Allinson's Staff of Life History Today 1992; 42:30-35
  3. ^ Corley TAB Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. ^ Scott CJ The Life and Trials of TR Allinson ex LRCP Ed Proc. R. Coll. Phys. Ed. 1999; 29:258-261
  5. ^ Flour Power - A Scottish Perspective at www.uni-ulm.de

External links[edit]