Calcutta Medical College

Calcutta Medical College was the first institution in India imparting a systematic education in western medicine. The English east india company established the Indian Medical Service (IMS) as early as 1764 to look after Europeans in British India. IMS officers headed military and civilian hospitals in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, and also accompanied the Company's ships and army. A utilitarian approach and the need to provide expert apothecaries, compounders, and dressers in different hospitals prompted the earliest official involvement with medical education in India. These subordinate assistants would help European doctors and surgeons who looked after the health of European civilians and military employees and also reduce the company's financial burdens by limiting the appointment of European doctors.

Calcutta Medical College

On 9 May 1822 the government laid down a plan for the instruction of up to twenty young Indians to fill the position of native doctors in the civil and military establishments of the Presidency of Bengal. The outcome was the establishment of The Native Medical Institution (NMI) in Calcutta (21 June 1822), where medical teaching was imparted in the vernacular. Treatises on anatomy, medicine, and surgery were translated from European languages for the benefit of the students. From 1826 onwards, classes on Unani and Ayurvedic medicine were held respectively at the calcutta madrasa and the sanskrit college. In 1827 John Tyler, an Orientalist and the first superintendent of the NMI started lectures on Mathematics and Anatomy at the Sanskrit College.

In general, the medical education provided by the colonial state at this stage involved parallel instructions in western and indigenous medical systems. Translation of western medical texts was encouraged and though dissection was not performed, clinical experience was a must. Trainee medical students had to attend different hospitals and dispensaries. Successful native doctors were absorbed in government jobs.

Towards the end of 1833 a Committee was appointed by the government of William bentinck in Bengal to report on the state of medical education and also to suggest whether teaching of indigenous system should be discontinued. The Committee consisted of Dr John Grant as President and JCC Sutherland, CE trevelyan, Thomas Spens, ram comul sen and MJ Bramley as members. The Committee criticised the medical education imparted at the NMI for the inappropriate nature of its training and the examination system as well as for the absence of courses on practical anatomy. The Committee submitted a report on October 20, 1834, where the Anglicists' point of view finally prevailed over the Orientalists. The Committee recommended that the state found a medical college 'for the education of the natives'. The various branches of medical science cultivated in Europe should be taught in this college. The intending candidates should possess a reading and writing knowledge of the English language, similar knowledge of Bengali and Hindustani and a proficiency in Arithmetic. This recommendation, soon followed by Macaulay's minute and Bentinck's resolution, sealed the fate of the school for native doctors and medical classes at the two leading oriental institutions of Calcutta. The NMI was abolished and the medical classes at the Sanskrit College and at the Madrasa were discontinued by the government order of 28 January 1835.

The proposed new college, known as the Calcutta Medical College (CMC), which was established by an order of 20 February, 1835 ushered in a new era in the history of medical education in India. It's stated purpose was to train native youths aged between 14 and 20 irrespective of caste and creed in the principles and practices of medical science in accordance with the mode adopted in Europe. This marked the end of official patronage of indigenous medical learning which in its turn evoked long-term reaction among the Indian practitioners of indigenous medicine and later the nationalists who strongly criticised the government for the withdrawal of patronage to the Indian system. Different sections of the Indian population responded differently to this newly founded system of education. Among the Hindus the Brahmins, Kayasthas, Vaidyas, were particularly enthusiastic about medical education.

The activities of the college started on 20 February 1835 with the admission of students. Twenty students were selected through a preliminary examination of about one hundred candidates. These boys had received their education either at the hindu college, Hare School or the General Assembly's Institution. Twenty-nine more students had already been selected. All of these 49 students were to receive a monthly stipend of Rs 7 from the government, but it was to be raised gradually. The students were to remain in the College for a period of not less than 4 years and not more than 6 years. On completion of their studies the students had to sit for a final examination. Successful candidates were to receive from the President of the Committee of education certificates of qualifications to practice surgery and medicine. They could also enter public service where they would be called 'Native Doctors' receiving an initial pay of Rs 30 per month which would be raised to Rs 40 after 7 years and to 50 after 14 years of service.

The College was placed under the charge of a full-time Superintendent who was assisted by a European Assistant. The government was required to provide a suitable building, a library, anatomical materials and other objects necessary for the education of the students. For practical clinical experience the students had to visit the General Hospital, the Native Hospital, The Hon'ble Company's Dispensary, the dispensaries for the Poor and the Eye Infirmary. Dr MJ Bramley was appointed Superintendent and Dr HH Goodeve and WBO'Shaughnessy were appointed professors. Only one member of the staff of the Native Medical Institution, Madhusudan Gupta (an Ayurvedic practitioner trained in western medicine), was transferred to the new college.

The classes were started in an old house at the rear of the Hindu College. In May 1835, the establishment was shifted to the premises the College has since occupied. During the first year of study, a series of lectures on anatomy and physiology was given. O'Shaughnessy delivered an elementary course of lectures on Chemistry from January to March 1836 and a second course from April to September. During 1837 and 1838, the staff of the College was extended and enriched by the appointment of CC Eggerton as Professor of Surgery and Clinical Surgery, Nathaniel Wallich as Professor of Botany and R O'Shaughnessy as demonstrator of Anatomy.

The year 1836 was a landmark in the history of the growth of western medicine in British India since it witnessed the first dissection of a human corpse by Indian students. Madhusudan Gupta is often given the credit of being the first person in modern India to have dissected a human body. But many accounts state that Umacharan Set, Rajkrishna De, Dwarakanath Gupta and Nabin Chandra Mitra comprised the first batch of students to take part in dissection. They passed the first examination held on 30 October 1838 and were declared fit to practise medicine and surgery. They consequently represented the first group of Indians qualified in western medicine and given government appointments as Sub-Assistant Surgeons to the hospitals at Dhaka, Murshidabad, Patna and Chittagong.

Many luminaries of Calcutta including dwarkanath tagore and Ram Comul Sen enthusiastically supported medical education at the CMC by instituting scholarships and prizes for brilliant students. Four students of the College were sent to England through the financial help of Dwarakanath Tagore, Professor Goodeve and partly of the government. Three of them, including Dwaraka Nath Bose, Bhola Nath Bose, and Gopal Chunder Seal passed the examination for MRCS (Member of the Royal College of Surgeons) in 1846 and returned to India to join the uncovenanted Medical Service. Surjee Coomar Chukerbutty remained there, obtained the MD degree of the University College of London and became the first Indian to pass the examination for the Indian Medical Service and join the covenanted Medical Service. He also became a distinguished professor of the Medical College holding the Chair of Materia Medica from 1864 till his death in 1874.

In 1842, Council of Education, which introduced many changes in the curriculum and system of examinations, replaced the Committee of Public Instruction. The new courses of study, based on the advice of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, were introduced in 1844, and were ultimately recognised by them, by the London University and the Society of Apothecaries in 1846. After the foundation of the university of calcutta in 1857 and its faculty of medicine for the award of medical degrees, the courses of study were revised to a certain extent. The University conferred three medical degrees, Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (LMS), Bachelor in Medicine (MB), and Doctor of Medicine (MD).

Other changes brought about in the College aimed at fulfilling the needs of the state to supply an increased number of medical personnel for employment in the army and for combating epidemic diseases among the civilians. The government order of August 1839 instituted medical classes through the medium of Urdu and Hindustani. Lessons were imparted in Anatomy, Materia Medica, Medicine and Surgery. Dissections and teaching methods followed western principles. Fifty students were selected initially. They received a monthly allowance of Rs 5 each and had to undergo clinical training by discharging hospital duties at the Medical College Hospital, founded in 1838. In 1840, a large female hospital containing 100 beds was constructed on the College grounds by liberal public subscription. This was followed by the opening of a large hospital in 1853, designed to accommodate 350 patients. Other hospitals were: the Eden Hospital (1881-82), the Ezra Hospital (1887), the Shama Charan Laha Eye Hospital (1891) and the Prince of Wales Surgical Block, opened in March 1911.

Before 1857 the number of students taking admission in the Maternity class fluctuated between 28 and 69. After 1857 the number increased slowly. At the end of their period of study the students were examined in anatomy, materia medica, surgery and medicine for the diploma of Native Doctor.

To meet the rising demand for native doctors, the Government introduced a Bengali class at the Calcutta Medical College in 1851. Proficiency in Bengali was an essential prerequisite for admission to this class. The theoretical and practical courses were almost the same as in the Hindustani class. 21 students admitted in this class were examined in 1853. Qualified students filled the ranks of the subordinate medical services as Hospital Apprentices or Vernacular Licentiates in Medicine and Surgery (VLMS) or found employment under Deputy Magistrates attached to Charitable Dispensaries and Jail Hospitals. In 1856-57, the class had 88 students and the number went on increasing till it touched the figure of 635 in 1872. The students mostly belonged to the Brahmin, Kayastha and Vaidya castes.

In 1864, the Bengali class was divided into two sections: The Native Apothecary section, which trained students for government employment, and the Vernacular Licentiate section which gave instructions in medicine and surgery in order to enable the students to practice among the less affluent sections of Indians. In 1873, both these classes were transferred to a new school called the Sealdah Medical School or the Campbell Medical School. The Hindu bhadralok class, Europeans and Eurasians dominated the student population. Although during 1880-1890 there was a small increase in the number of Muslim students, their proportion was very small.

A resolution of 29 June 1883 allowed the admission of women into the CMC after doing FA. kadambini ganguly, a Bengali Brahmo became the first woman admitted to the CMC. In 1884 the government offered scholarships of Rs 20 per month to all female students. Bidhu Mukhi Bose and Virginia Mary Mitter received these scholarships and became the first Indian women to graduate during 1888-89.

The growth of the CMC as reflected in the number of students presents an interesting pattern. A period of modest rise in the number of students was followed by rapid increase from 1891-92 till 1901-02, and then a fall in 1906-07, exactly during the period of the turmoil of the swadeshi movement in Bengal. Thereafter the increase continued unabated. The number rose from 612 in 1911-12 to 1030 in 1921-22. From the mid-1920s there was a downward trend which was reversed in the thirties.

An important change occurred in 1906 when the Calcutta University decided to discontinue the LMS examination held since 1861 and henceforth confer only the degrees of MB and MD. The last batch of LMS students was examined in 1911.

During the 1930s, the system of reservation of seats was introduced, based on the relative population of different classes of people. Further it was decided that of the 100 students taken, 5 were to be female candidates. Most of the female students belonged to the Anglo-Indian, Christian, Brahmo or Parsi community. In 1940 the duration of study was reduced from 6 to 5 years, to be followed by a six-month period of Pre-Registration Clinical Assistantship. The year 1940 also saw the conversion of the Students' Club of the CMC into the Students' Union. [Sujata Mukherjee]

Bibliography Calcutta Medical College, The Centenary of the Medical College, Bengal, 1835-1934. Calcutta, 1935; Poonam Bala, Imperialism and Medicine in Bengal: A Socio-Historical Perspective, New Delhi, 1991; SN Sen, Scientific and Technical Education in India 1781-1900, Indian National Science Academy, 1991; David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth Century India, Delhi, 1993.