John Henry Tilden

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John Henry Tilden
Born(1851-01-21)21 January 1851
Died(1940-09-01)1 September 1940
Scientific career
Founder of the Tilden School for Teaching Health
Dr. John Henry Tilden (1851-1940)[1]

John Henry Tilden (January 21, 1851 – September 1, 1940) was an American physician best known in circles of alternative healthcare for his criticism of pharmaceutics and for his theory explaining disease via "toxaemia".


Tilden was born in Van Burensburg, Illinois, on January 21, 1851. He began studying medicine under the supervision of his father, Joseph G Tilden MD. At age 17, the younger Tilden joined the medical office of J. Fellows, of Nokomis, Illinois, and studied medicine another two years. In 1872, Tilden graduated from the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati, and practiced in Nokomis for eight years. Meanwhile, in 1877, he took a post-graduate course at the American Medical College at St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1879, Tilden moved to St. Louis, and, at the college, lectured in anatomy and physiology for two years. In 1881, he moved to Litchfield, Illinois, where, practicing four years, he "established a fine reputation."[2] In June 1882, he was elected Adjunct Professor of Anatomy in St. Louis. In 1886, Tilden moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he drew acclaim,[2] and in 1890, moved to Denver, Colorado. In 1916, he established the Tilden School for Teaching Health as a private residential teaching institution and sanitarium where he offered patients his alternative to the standard medical practices of the day.[3]

Personal life[edit]

In 1873, Tilden married Rebecca Maddux, a native of Hillsboro, Illinois, and daughter of Nathaniel Maddux. They had two children, a daughter, Edna, born in 1876, and Elsie, born in 1878 (who died in 1884). Tilden was "a prominent member of the National Eclectic Medical Society, and also of the State Medical Society, of Illinois."[2]

He died in Denver, Colorado, on September 1, 1940, at age 89.[4]

Healthcare views[edit]

Early in practice, doubting drug treatment, Tilden began favoring preventive healthcare. In this interest, he began publishing a monthly magazine, The Stuffed Club, in 1900. It was renamed The Philosophy of Health in 1915, and renamed Health Review and Critique in 1926. Also in 1926, Tilden published the book Toxaemia Explained: The True Interpretation of the Cause of Disease.[5][6] Years later, Henry Bieler mentioned Tilden as one of his own influences.


Tilden's claims that all diseases are the result of "toxaemia" are regarded as quackery by medical experts. He was described as a food faddist and quack by the American Medical Association.[7]

Harriet A. Hall has written that:

"Tilden did no experiments. He “thought” about disease and came up with a hypothesis: enervating habits allow toxic metabolic waste products to accumulate in the body, and this is the one cause of all disease. Then he proceeded to advise people about health without doing any kind of testing to determine whether his hypothesis was true or false, or whether following his recommendations really made a difference. It is all speculation, and the facts it is based on are largely pre-scientific errors and distortions. It was not entirely unreasonable for him to think that way in 1926, but his ideas have been completely superseded by 8 decades of advances in microbiology, genetics, histology, immunology, physiology, and other disciplines."[8]


  • Criticisms of the Practice of Medicine, (1910)
  • Cholera Infantum (1909)
  • Epilepsy (1918)
  • Typhoid Fever (1909)
  • Diseases Of Women and Easy Childbirth (1912)
  • Gonorrhea and Syphilis (1912)
  • Food: Its Influence as a Factor in Disease and Health (1914)
  • Appendicitis (1921)
  • Care of Children (1920)
  • Impaired Health I (1921)
  • Impaired Health II (1921)
  • Food I - Its Composition, Preparation, Combination, and Effects, with Appendix on Cooking (1914)
  • Food II - Its Influence as a Factor in Disease and Health (1916)
  • Pocket Dietitian (1925)
  • Toxaemia Explained: The True Interpretation of the Cause of Disease (1926)


  1. ^ Stone, Wilbur F. (1918). History of Colorado, Vol III. Denver Public Library: C. J. Clarke Publishing, Company. p. 119.
  2. ^ a b c Portrait And Biographical Album of Sedgwick County, Kan., retrieved 5 September 2012
  3. ^ Simmons, Thomas and R. Laurie (September 7, 1995). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form -Tilden School for Teaching Health". p. Sec. 8 page 16. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  4. ^ Dr. John H. Tilden DR. Tilden's Biography, Frederic N. Gilbert
  5. ^ Tilden, John H. (1997). Toxaemia Explained: The True Interpretation of the Cause of Disease. Kessinger.
  6. ^ Book passages:
    • "Food is a stimulant. Overeating is overstimulating. Add to this excess one or two other stimulants—Coffee or tobacco—excessive venery, overwork and worry, and one subject to that amount of drain of nerve-energy will become decidedly enervated. Elimination falls far short of requirements; consequently toxin accumulates in the blood. This adds a pronounced auto-toxin stimulation to that coming from overstimulating habits, and completes a vicious circle. This complex stands for a disease-producing Toxemia, which will be permanent except as toxin crises—so-called acute diseases—lower the amount of toxin, again to accumulate and continue until the habits that keep the body enervated are controlled".
    • "According to the Toxin Philosophy, every so-called disease is a crisis of Toxemia; which means that toxin has accumulated in the blood above the toleration-point, and the crisis, the so-called disease—call it cold, “flu,” pneumonia, headache, or typhoid fever—is a vicarious elimination. Nature is endeavoring to rid the body of toxin. Any treatment that obstructs this effort at elimination baffles nature in her effort at self-curing".
    Tilden, Toxaemia Explained, 1926.
  7. ^ Anonymous. (1938). Pamphlets: Quacks and Quackery. American Medical Association. Bureau of Investigation. p. 50
  8. ^ Hall, Harriet A. (2008). “I Reject Your Reality” – Germ Theory Denial and Other Curiosities. Science-Based Medicine.

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