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Ray, Kumud Sankar


Ray, Kumud Sankar (1892-1950) One of the earliest tuberculosis researcher and practitioner in British India. Popularly known as Dr KS Ray, Kumud Sankar Ray was a scion of the teota zamindar family, and the younger son of rai parbati sankar chaudhuri. His formal education began at the Teota Academy, followed by Hindu School and Presidency College, Calcutta. Although he joined the Calcutta Medical College in 1911, he was sent to read for honours in medicine at Edinburgh University, Scotland, later in the year.

Kumud Sankar Ray

Towards the end of his studies in Edinburgh, his mentor there, Sir Robert Philip, suggested that Ray should specialise in the treatment of tuberculosis. As a result of this, Ray came to work at the Ochill Hill Sanatorium in Scotland, and was also Officiating Medical Superintendent for some time. It was here that he gained a deep and vast knowledge about TB – its causes, symptoms and treatment. Ray next went to Chesterfield Hospital, where he worked as Surgical Registrar, to learn surgery. While at Chesterfield, the summons to come back home grew louder, and Dr Ray returned to India in 1916.  

On his return he joined Carmichael Medical School as assistant professor of zoology and also set up his private practice as a genito-urinary specialist. He was the first person to perform gland grafting in India; a pioneer in radium therapy; and the pioneer of thoracic surgery in Asia. When refused the professorship of surgery at Carmichael, he resigned, and started the nationalist 'Jatiya Ayurbigyan Parishad' at the formal hall and adjoining rooms in the 'reception' block (bahir-bari) of his familial residence in Calcutta (44, European Asylum Lane); it was later shifted to Forbes Mansion. The National Medical College and Hospital was later born out of this institution.

It was around this time that Kumud Sankar wrote an article, 'Tuberculosis in Calcutta', in the Modern Review stressing the need for a TB Hospital in Bengal. This article helped in rousing the interest of Prabhas Chandra Ghose, himself a TB patient and forsaken by his relatives, in the project. In his will, PC Ghose left about Rs 1.6 lakhs to a board of trustees to build a sanatorium in Calcutta. Dr Ray became the organizer-secretary and the superintendent of the Society, and a four-bedded TB hospital, the first of its kind in Bengal, was set up at Jadavpur in 1922. In the early years of acute financial crunch, Mrs Ray largely did the cooking and served the patients. The doctor was much ridiculed and criticised for his 'mad' project. Very soon however, the TB hospital started growing, and became the largest one in Asia. It was here that Ray introduced thoracic surgery for the very first time anywhere in India. It was also due to Kumud Sankar's efforts that a second one, the SB Dey Sanatorium in Kurseong, Darjeeling district (Ray's family had a house there), was established, with Ray as its founder-secretary and superintendent. Incidentally, his nephew, Keshab Sankar, who had been trained as an architect in Glasgow, designed the main block of the Kurseong sanatorium. As chairman of the Health Committee, Calcutta Corporation, Dr KS Ray started the Mosquito Control Department for the eradication of the mosquito menace, a pioneering move ' although much ridiculed by less intelligent contemporaries. He also established the Smoke Nuisance Control Department, re-organised the Water Analysis Department and brought about improvements in the process of water chlorination.

Ray, along with his cousin kiran sankar roy, was profoundly influenced by chitta ranjan das, and was a prominent functionary of the Swarajya party. At CR Das's initial insistence, Kumudsankar contested, and won, the Bengal Legislative Council elections from Faridpur, and was also nominated the Chief Whip of the Swarajya Party (1925). He was elected a Councillor of the calcutta corporation in 1926, and became Alderman in 1929. Very close to Kumudsankar was the revolutionary, Bhupati Majumdar. In complete secrecy, Ray had on rent a house in Akrur Dutta Lane for revolutionaries ' especially the injured and the wounded. Ray would first treat them at his chamber, and then had them shifted to this shelter.

As part of the national medical movement, Dr Ray was one of the founders of the Indian Medical Association (1928), and was its secretary for twelve years, and president for a couple of years. During this period he travelled all over the country to 'organise' the medical profession. He was the second editor of the IMA journal, after the death of the first, Sir nilratan sarkar. It was out of this movement that the Indian Medical Council, the apex body for medical education in India, was born; Kumudsankar was a founder member, and eventually its President.

Dr Ray published several important research papers on varied medical subjects. He also wrote popular articles on medical and social issues in newspapers and periodicals. A sense of duty drove him to organise medical relief all over the subcontinent in times of earthquake, flood, cyclone, air raid (as chairman of the medical section of the Bengal Civil Protection Committee), famine and epidemic. He also helped to organise the Anthropology department of the University of Calcutta, as a university Fellow. In his younger days, Ray had been a member of sukumar roy's Monday Club, and was close to the 'Sabuj Patra' circle of pramatha chowdhury.

Kumud Sankar Ray Chaudhuri was married to Surama Devi (of Martagram, Dhaka). He died (1950) in Vellore at the age of fifty-eight. [R Roy]