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Felix Leopold Oswald

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Felix Leopold Oswald
Felix Leopold Oswald.png
BornDecember 6, 1845
DiedSeptember 27, 1906
OccupationPhysician, writer

Felix Leopold Oswald (December 6, 1845 – September 27, 1906) was a Belgian American physician, naturalist, secularist and freethought writer.

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Oswald was born in Namur, Belgium. He graduated from Brussels University in 1865. He studied at Gottingen and Heidelberg where he obtained his M.A. and M.D. degrees.[1] In 1866, as a military doctor he joined a corps of Belgian volunteers in support of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. He travelled in Mexico and later settled in the United States.[2]

Oswald was a conservationist.[3] He was concerned about the negative effects of deforestation. He urged a legislative act to protect "the woods of all the upper ridges in hill countries."[4] His writings on natural history experienced an extensive international readership.[5]

He wrote many scientific articles.[2] His articles were published in the Popular Science magazine, The Monist journal, The Open Court journal and the North American Review.

Oswald lived as a hermit and traveller, cooking his meals over an open fire.[6] He was dubbed "the monkey man" as he had two or three pet monkeys that he allowed to move freely in his house. In 1905, his house including his monkeys were set on fire and destroyed.[2]

Natural hygiene

Oswald was supportive of natural hygiene, a movement which advocated fasting, vegetarian dieting, pure water, clean air and exercise.[7] In 1889, Oswald wrote a series of articles under the general title, International Health Studies for John Harvey Kellogg's Good Health journal.[8] Oswald was an anti-vaccinationist and associated with Bernarr Macfadden. In 1901, Macfadden's publishing company released Oswald's book Vaccination a Crime.[9]

Felix was influenced by Sylvester Graham, he referred to fasting as "the Graham starvation cure."[10]


Oswald was a freethought writer and naturalist who did not believe in the supernatural.[11] Oswald has been described as an outspoken freethinker and one of the greatest advocates of the American freethought world.[2][11]

He authored the book The Secret of the East in 1883 and an article in 1891 that argued Christianity was of Buddhist origin.[12] Lewis G. Janes suggested that this idea was "discredited at the outset by the totally different conceptions of the God idea and the destiny of man after death in the two religions."[13] James Thompson Bixby wrote a rebuttal to Oswald's article. He argued that "the resemblances alleged by Dr. Oswald, even if granted, would be insufficient to prove his case... the differences between the Gospel and Buddhism run deeper and are more positive than the like-nesses."[14]

Edwin Arnold wrote that Oswald rejected the myths of Buddha and Christ for secular humanism, and that writers such as Oswald who wanted to "prove that Christianity was derived from Buddhism was a way of undermining its authority."[15] Biblical scholars have rejected the theory that Christianity originated from Buddhism.[16][17]

Felix was influenced by the research of Rudolf Seydel. Orientalist Friedrich Max Müller rejected Oswald's thesis but respected his dedication to the subject. Müller commented that Felix was "one of the more conscientious and fair-minded students of Buddhism."[18]


Oswald died from a train crash at Syracuse, New York on September 27, 1906.[2][19] Obituaries have described it as a tragic accident[11], whilst railway employees reported that he had committed suicide.[2]

Selected publications


  1. ^ Anonymous. (1906). Obituary Notices. The Publishers Weekly 70 (2): 985.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Troelstra, Anne S. (2016). Bibliography of Natural History Travel Narratives. KNNV Publishing. p. 328. ISBN 978-9050115964
  3. ^ Smith, Harold Frederick. (1999). American Travellers Abroad: A Bibliography of Accounts Published Before 1900. Scarecrow Press. p. 223. ISBN 0-8108-3554-1
  4. ^ Behan, Richard W. (2001). Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands. Island Press. p. 93. ISBN 1-55963-848-6
  5. ^ Walter, David. (1992). Today Then: America's Best Minds Look 100 Years into the Future on the Occasion of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. American & World Geographic Publishing. p. 64. ISBN 1-56037-024-6
  6. ^ Hermit, Scientist, Philosopher. The Topeka State Journal. February 10, 1896. p. 4
  7. ^ Pizzorno, Joseph E; Murray, Michael T. (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 978-1-4377-2333-5
  8. ^ Good Health for 1889. Good Health 24 (1).
  9. ^ Colgrove, James. (2005). “Science in a Democracy”: The Contested Status of Vaccination in the Progressive Era and the 1920s. Isis 96 (2): 167–191.
  10. ^ Oswald, Felix L. (1881). Physical Education. Popular Science Monthly. p. 723
  11. ^ a b c "Dr. Felix Leopold Oswald". Blue-Grass Blade. March 21, 1909. p. 2
  12. ^ Oswald, Felix. (1891). Was Christ a Buddhist?. The Arena 3 (1): 193–201.
  13. ^ Janes, Lewis G. (1899). The Comparative Study of Religions: Its Pitfalls and Its Promise. The Sewanee Review 7 (1): 1–20.
  14. ^ Bixby, James T. (1891). Buddhism in the New Testament. The Arena 3 (2): 555–566.
  15. ^ Arnold, Edwin. (1957). Interpreter of Buddhism to the West. New York: Bookman Associates. p. 101
  16. ^ Aiken, Charles Francis. (1900). The Dhamma of Gotama the Buddha and the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. Boston: Marlier and Company.
  17. ^ Houlden, Leslie. (2006). Jesus: The Complete Guide. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 140. ISBN 978-0826480118
  18. ^ Müller, Friedrich Max. (1999 edition, originally published in 1888). Studies in Buddhism. Asian Educational Services. pp. 79–81. ISBN 81-206-1226-4
  19. ^ Scientific Notes and News. (1906). Science 24 (614): 446–448.
This page was last edited on 26 October 2019, at 21:21
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