The news that the number of prescriptions for homeopathic medicines written by GPs in England has nearly halved in just two years coincides with the 20th anniversary of a seminal scientific paper on the subject.
Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1988, the science world was rocked by one of the most controversial research papers ever published in the highly-respected journal Nature. According to a charismatic French scientist named Jacques Benveniste, pure water could somehow remember what it had previously contained.
Benveniste had started with a substance that caused an allergic reaction, he diluted it over and over again until there was nothing left except water, and then he observed that the pure water still managed to trigger an allergic reaction when it was added to living cells.
If the experiment was correct then it would mean rewriting the laws of physics and chemistry.
Moreover, the research would have a major impact on the credibility of homeopathy, because it is a form of alternative medicine that relies on remedies made by diluting the key curative ingredient over and over again until that ingredient has disappeared.
Even Benveniste was shocked by the implications of his own work.
"It was like shaking your car keys in the Seine at Paris and then discovering that water taken from the mouth of the river would start your car!"
Source - BBC