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Convocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras online

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learning as an inducement to the youths of this country to come
forward and fill our colleges. To do so now would be, I feel,
an act of supererogation. There is no need for us now to go
into the bye- ways and hedges for guests to fill our banquets.
Each year sees an ever-increasing number of candidates for matri-
culation and graduation in Arts, but I fail to notice any increase
Paucity of ^ or degrees in Medicine a matter, I see, on which
Medical Gradu- our gallant and respected Director of Public In-
struction touched upon in his address last year.
In twenty years the faculty of medicine has produced three



1878.jDr. M. C. Furnell 125

Doctors, half-a-dozen Bachelors, and one Licentiate in a population
numbering some 50,000,000 of people ! Some future Historian
looking at these figures might jump at the conclusion that this
continent, during the commencement of the 19th century, was
singularly fortunate as regards health, and that the fell pestilences
which in some other parts of the world proved so disastrous, were
here unknown. Yet what a fallacy such a conclusion would be !
As the Principal of the Medical College, this fact is of singular
interest to me, and it has often been present to my mind not only
that the number of Native students who presented themselves
to study Medicine, apart from those entering the service of Gov-
ernment, was singularly small, but that the Brahmins practically
held altogether aloof. What was the cause of this ? If we turn
to the ancient History of India, we find that medi-
Medicine in cme f ar from being a despised science, was one of

Ancient India. .-, , i T -VT , n* -

the most honoured- JN ext to the vocation ot .r nest,
that of the Doctor seems to have been the most respected.
Nay, I am not sure it was, in the most ancient times, second even
to that of the Priest, for I find in your ancient books that one of
the fourteen " ratnas " or precious objects which the gods pro-
duced by churning the ocean after the deluge was a " Learned
Physician ," In the Mahabharata is an account of this ocean churn-
ing for the recovery of lost treasures, and the one most desired
and sought for was the Ambrosia which confers life and health.
" The gods had failed, but when Ananta, the Serpent King, bid
the great snake Vasaki wind himself as a churning cord around
the mountain Mandara, all the gods pulled vigorously at the
living cord, until from the agitated floods uprose the Moon, and
the Goddess Lakshmi ; the white Horse and the wonderful gem
called Kaustubba ;

And lastly from the troubled waves,
Amidst the glorious cheering,

Uprose Dhanwantari the sage,
The lost Ambrosia bearing.

This was the famous Physician, bearing in his hand a white
jug containing the coveted Ambrosia."* This
Dhanwantari is said by some to have obtained the
Ayur Veda the ancient Medical Record of the Hindoos from
Brahma direct, by others to have been instructed in its mysteries
by Indra, the God of Heaven, where Dhanwantari practised
medicine with great success. But witnessing the ignorance
and misery of mankind, he descended upon earth to cure their
maladies and to instruct them in the means of preventing as
well as curing diseases. This Dhanwantari became King of

* Hindu System of Medicine by T. A. Wise.



1-6 University of Madras.

Kasi or Banares, the most holy city of the Hindoos a city well
worth the pilgrimage of any one, Hindoo or English, merely
to gaze upon. Here he became so famous from his many cures,
that, at last, a deputation of divine sages, or Munis, waited
upon him to petition instruction in the divine art of Medicine.
" Deign Sovereign Ruler," these sages thus addressed Dhanwan-
tari, " to bestow upon us the power of "preventing and curing-
the many diseases under which mankind are suffering, afflicting
their bodies, tormenting their minds, and which, with the numer-
ous accidental and natural diseases, distress them so much that
they seem to be without friends. We pray that you will bestow
upon us a work to instruct us in the causes, the nature and cure
of diseases : for retaining health and for promoting the welfare
of the soul in another world. Like scholars we come to receive
the information from you." The King-Doctor's answer was
favorable. " Your wishes shall be granted," replied Dhanwantari,
Sasruta an( ^ one ^ ^ e sa o es j Sasruta, son of Visamitra,

a contemporary of Rama, was chosen to be the per-
son to be instructed in medicine. The book which Sasruta, from
the dictation of Dhanwantari, compiled, was an abridgement of
the Ayur Veda, that itself being far too voluminous and heavenly
for the present degenerate race of mankind : but if I understand
my authorities correctly, Sasruta' s work is still preserved, and is
still a high authority among good Hindoos. I will not take up
your time in describing the work at any length, but I wish to draw
your attention to this curious fact, that the third book treats of
Religious scru- Anatomy and gives a description of the body,
pies about dis- and I learn from it that your present prejudice
against dissection had no existence in those good
old times when kings and sages were doctors. Sasruta enjoins
that " the teacher shall seek to perfect his pupil by the appli-
" cation of all expedients which he may think calculated to effect
" his proficiency," and he gives directions for the use of instru-
ments. Again he writes : " Those men who, in ignorance of the
" human frame, venture to make it the subject of their experi-
" ments are the murderers of their species." Charaka, who in
the opinion of some is even more ancient than
Charaka. Sasruta, writes : " A Practitioner should know all

"the parts of a body, both external and internal,
" and their relative positions with regard to each othor ; without
" such knowledge he cannot be a proper Practitioner," What
says Menu, your great Lawgiver : " Should a Brahmin touch a
K fresh human bone, he is purified by bathing, and if it be dry,
" by stroking a cow, or looking at the sun, having sprinkled his
" mouth duly with water." It is evident the great lawgiver



1878. Dr. M. C. Furnell. 127

passed no prohibition on the matter. I find also that in Bengal
the opinion of learned Pundits was given on this point in Lord
William Bentinck's time, and the Shastras made to declare that
<f Dissection was permissible to a Brahmin seeking Medical
knowledge/' My own opinion had always been that this was
the insuperable bar to the study of our Western Science of
Medicine by good caste Hindoos, and I had commenced some
time ago a paper on this subject for submission to Government,
recommending that Brahmins wishing to study Medicine might
be excused the study of Practical Anatomy. And yet it would
seem that your holy Vedas hold no such prohibition, and that
this, like many other superstitions and I use the word with all
respect has grown up in these later and more degenerate days
of your religion. What a strange subject this for reflection
that we who pride ourselves in having quite lately overcome
this prejudice of humanity for it is only in the commencement
of this present century the study of Anatomy has become legal
in Great Britain should have been anticipated by Natives of
this country some three or four hundred years ago, and that I,
a humble representative of the Western Aryan races, should
stand here trying to persuade you to go back to your old
ways of knowledge ! Verily ! Verily ! ! saith the Prophet,
" The thing that hath been, is that which shall be ; and that
which is done, that which shall be done ; and there is no new
thing under the sun." But we are not obliged to trust merely
to the fable legends of Hindoo Mythology for the
assertion that medicine in this country is an old
and honored science. When the Greeks came to
India with Alexander, they found, amongst the traces of civiliza-
tion which raised their astonishment and admiration, the practice
of medicine far advanced. Thus Arrian informs us, " The Grecian
Physicians found no remedy against the bites of snakes ; but the
Indians cured those who happened to fall under that misfortune/'
And again Nearchus informs us, " Alexander, having all the
most skilful Indian Physicians about his person, caused proclama-
tion to be made throughout the camp, that whoever might be bitten
by one of these snakes should forthwith repair to the Royal
Pavilion to be cured." This was 300 years before Christ, and
now in 1878, more than 2,000 years after, we have the Govern-
ment of India and Dr. Shortt vainly offering a reward for the
precious but lost knowledge ! These Physicians are also said to
have made other cures. "If any among them feel themselves
much indisposed," says Nearchus, " they apply to their Brahmins,
who, by wonderful and even more than human means, cure
whatever will admit of it." Not only did the Greeks derive



128 University of Madras.

much information direct, during Alexander and his successor's
invasion of India, but from the Egyptians subsequently, and
they owed their knowledge to some mysterious nation of the
Bast, India no doubt. But our indebtedness to India can be
more directly traced somewhat later. When Bagdad, under the
Caliphs after the destruction of Alexandria, became the great
seat of learning, medicine was cultivated with much diligence
and success. Hindoo Physicians were invited to settle in Arabia,
and the works of Charaka, Sasruta and the treatise called Nidana
were translated and studied by the Arabians in the days of
Harun and Mansur, A.D. 773. With the great wave of Mussul-
man conquest which spread along the shores of the Mediterranean,
Medicine and Mathematics were brought by the Arabians to Spain
and found a congenial home in the Saracenic Colleges of the
Iberian Peninsula. The Arabians were not only great Physicians,
but famous alchemists, and to their teachings we owe the founda-
tions of those sciences which have now grown to the fair
dimensions of Modern Medicine and Chemistry."* They seem,
however, to have neglected Anatomy, and were more particularly
famous for the introduction of numerous Oriental remedies.
Ehubarb, Tamarinds, Cassia, Senna, Camphor and various other
gums, which, as they are entirely the products of Asia, fully
attest that their knowledge of remedial measures came from
the East.

And what is this art of Medicine, for the study of which
your ancestors in far off times were so famous ?
What is this Which your heroes and your gods cultivated so
assiduously, but you deem beneath your notice ? It
is, I think, one of the fairest and most entrancing of the pursuits
which can occupy man's time. The sciences allied to Medicine
Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry and Botany are of endless
interest and beauty, and for this reason, that the laws which they
disclose are the laws of Nature ; and the crowning studies of
Medicine and Surgery, which they lead up to, are they not equally
interesting ? They bring comfort and assistance, after restored
health and strength, to suffering thousands of our fellow-crea-
tures ; and the laws of one, if properly understood and applied,
are capable of saving whole nations from epidemics more devas-
tating far than the most fatal wars. Jenner's discovery of
vaccination alone, has saved more lives than even the victories
of Grenghis Khan, aye twenty Genghis Khans, have deprived the
world of ; and chloroform has assuaged more pain than perhaps

* It has been said, " Whilst the Byzantines obliterated science in Theology,
the Saracens illuminated it by Medicine." (Draper.)



1878. Dr. M. C. Furnell. 129

even the cruel Spanish Inquisition ever inflicted. I am not
romancing. I am making, I believe, no tropes or figures of
speech, but talking plain facts. I could cull from history examples
without number of fair cities and even provinces destroyed and
blotted out, from man's ignorance or neglect of what are now
the most obvious hygienic law. Turn to the history of the Middle
Ages, and we find one succession of famines and pestilences,
pestilences and famines, sweeping over Europe. Come down to
times nearer, we find in 1656, 240,000 people were destroyed by
a pestilence in Naples alone, and upwards of 400,000 perished
in the Neapolitan territories, a comparatively small place. In
1663, pestilence prevailed throughout Englarfa, culminating in
the great plague which carried off hundreds of thousands until
the fire of London, by destroying the dirty, ill-drained, and badly
ventilated houses, put an end to the pestilence. Now what was
the state of things then existing ? The celebrated and learned

Erasmus, not very long before, in a letter to a

English homes physician of Cardinal Wolsey, says of Englishmen,

Erasmus tm " There is a degree of uncleanliness and even filth

"of which I could have formed no conception.
" The floors of the houses are commonly of clay, strewed with
"rushes which are occasionally removed, but underneath lies
" unmolested an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments of
" fish, spittle, excrement of dogs, cats and everything that was
" nasty." Was it any wonder we had pestilence and plagues ?
London of the present day is most probably thirty or forty times
the size it was then, containing nearly 4,000,000 of people, but it
is now one of the healthiest cities of the world, and why ? simply
because the people have learnt to wash, drain their houses and
streets, and use comparatively pure water, for much remains to
be done even now. But a wise regard for sanitation has borne
ample fruit even of late years ; and great epidemics, such as at
one time it was periodically visited with and which were ascrib-
ed to the direct manifestation of divine wrath have practically
disappeared. Am I wrong in saying that a state of things very
much as described by Erasmus, if not worse, obtains amongst
the dwelling-places of many of your towns, and bears practically
the same fruit ? Need we be astonished at our recurring epi-
demics of fever, dysentery and cholera ? Take this very plague

cholera, with which we are so familiar, for is not

India its home ? It is one of those pestilences, bred
of filth and dirt, which should disappear from amongst us.
Already is it beginning to shew chinks in its armour and has
ceased to be the dread, mysterious, unknown, and uncon-
querable 'enemy it was in my early days; before which man
17



130 University of Madras.

had nothing to do, but to fling down his arms in abject terror

-1 "I T i ^M 2:




its determined search for truth, and modest ever has pushed
home some searching questions concerning water contamination,
and infection of different sorts, which begin to throw much light
on its diffusion, and will, before long, I think, make cholera visita-
tions in India as few and far between as they are now in Europe.

These are the fair realms of study and usefulness medicine
opens up to you. ^She has to do with every thing that concerns
man's material comfort and safety, not only to cure but to pre-
vent disease, and thus the very elements form subjects of its
investigation. Your ancestors here again seem to me to have
Importance forestalled modern civilization. Pure water enough
of pure water and ample enough for all man's wants, is the great
Ancient India cr y now ^ our l ar g e cities in Europe, thanks to the
teachings of Modern Hygiene. If I am not mistaken,
your ancestors, especially the Brahmins, had grasped this fact
ages ago. The careful preservation of their own wells and tanks
from contact by inferior and unclean castes, the scrupulous
cleanliness of the vessels used in carrying and preserving water,
and the habit of frequent bathing enjoined as a religious observ-
ance, all demonstrate the great value your forefathers attached
to supplies of pure water. And now science, with its chemical
tests and the microscope, demonstrates as clearly as any problem
in Euclid can be demonstrated, that in impure water lie the con-
taminating germs of fevers, cholera, dysentery and other diseases.
Unfortunately, you have, at least many of you, long lost the
value of this wisdom, and not only are your wells in many places
less scrupulously clean, but your habits in all large religious
gatherings of contaminating the streams and water-supplies,
tends in this hot climate to originate and spread the dreadful
epidemics for which India is so famous. Air as well as water
. falls under the immediate attention of the physi-

cian. It is more essential even that man should
have pure air to breathe than pure water to drink. Floating
in the atmosphere are myriads of contaminating germs against
which knowledge may defend us ; and simple contrivances
of admission or exclusion of certain winds may make all the
difference in this country of health or sickness in a household.
Food, of all sorts ; the abuse or rightful use of alcoholic drinks ;
impurities in food, their detection and methods
of removal all fall in the present day under the



1878. Dr. M. C. Furnell. l3l

province of the intelligent physician. And how usefully such
knowledge may be turned to the benefit of mankind I need not,
I am sure, remind Madras, which has not yet forgotten how
the bold and sagacious words of its Sanitary Commissioner
spoken in time saved, during the past famine, most probably
hundreds and thousands of lives of our poor fellow-subjects.

But can I pass over the subject of food without making some
allusion to the late dreadful famine which has visifc-
ed this land ? Pardon me the wretched platitude,
but without food we cease to exist; this is too self-
evident, but what does not seem so self-evident, although equally
true, is that man can, by his ingenuity and the right application of
science, do much to avert, if not altogether prevent, these ca-
lamitous visitations. I am not going to suggest we can put
spots on the sun, if it is really owing to the non-maculation of that
luminary, we are indebted to the failure of our monsoons. But
the sun is not an invention of to-day, and I may be allowed,
with the greatest respect for my friend Mr. Pogson, to say I am
with those who hold that that theory is not yet proven. But
what history indubitably teaches us is that, whereas in the dark
ages Europe, as I said before, was one recurring scene of pes-
tilences and famines, famines under improved
Possibilities means of cultivation have practically ceased to

or an improved. i n i < i i , ? t

system of Agri- exist, borne harvests, ot course, are less plentirul
culture. than others, and occasionally there is partial dis-

tress, but famines such as we have had, are now, I
may say, unknown. In the British Isles we have had no famine
since 1847-48, when the potato failure caused such distress in
Ireland. Now what was the course pursued by the people of
England after this famine ? I don't remember that they
troubled themselves much about spots on the sun, but spots on
Irish cultivation were very effectually rubbed out the whole
system of agriculture was changed. Agricultural Colleges were
started and an amount of attention directed to the food supply
of the people which eventuated in almost changing the face of
the country. Nor must you suppose that, in the British Isles,
farming, as in this country, is relegated to the lower classes
only as

" In ancient times the sacred plough employed
' The king and awful fathers of mankind :
' And some, with whom compared your insect tribes
' Are but the beings of a summer's day,
' Have held the scale of Empire, ruled the storm
' Of mighty war ! then with unwearied hand,
' Disdaining little delicacies, seized
1 The plough, and greatly independent lived."



132 University of Madras.

So our great nobility, our Dukes, Earls and others, even
Koyalty itself, are many of them admirable farmers, and take
the liveliest practical interest in the development of all that
concerns the soil. Here it seems to me you have a most
splendid opening for the educated youths of this country, and
as Government has instituted an Agricultural College in Madras
(and if I had any voice in the matter I would make the teaching
of agriculture compulsory in all our Normal schools) there is
no excuse for some of you not following this science. Of what
may be done in this way two examples occur to me as I write,
and had I time I have no doubt numberless other instances
could be adduced. Thirty years ago, Wynaad was a jungle,
the home only of elephants, wild boar, sarnbur
Wynaad. and fever. It was almost a " terra incognita,"

save to the adventurous travellers who made a
short cut through it from the Western Coast to Mysore. It is
now the home of hundreds of venturesome and intelligent
Englishmen, who employ thousands of your fellow-countrymen
in the cultivation of coffee and cinchona. The dense jungles
are gradually being converted into fruitful plantations, and I
presume the value of the property may now be estimated at
millions ! And from cultivation fever flies ! Are there not
countless tracts of land in India waiting only
i ndu st r y and science to be thus converted into
smiling gardens, amply repaying, as Nature always
generously repays those who cultivate her ?. How cultiva-
tion affects even climates and calls down as it were rain from
Heaven, I may cite to you the singular change which has come
over that tract of land through which the Suez Canal has
been cut. Hitherto rain was quite unknown there, but now
ever and again the astonished Arab is witness of what to him
would have been formerly a strange phenomenon, a refreshing
shower. Is it not possible, and even probable that well-directed
industry in planting forests, damming our rivers, opening up
irrigation works and making tanks, would thus beneficially
change our climate in Southern India, and avert our Rain
Famines ?

But time will not permit me to pursue the subject further.
T have said enough, I think, to convince you that medicine
is not a science which the people of India, of all people, and
especially the Brahmins, should despise or neglect. It originated
with you, and the prejudices which now debar you from its
study had no existence in your olden age. It is essentially a
study worthy of the noblest faculties of man, and one which the



l878.~-.Dr. M. C. Furndl 133

shrewd, patient, clear intellects of the people of this country,
especially the Brahmins, would master and adorn. But is there
not something else which keeps the bold intellects amongst you
from choosing medicine as a career ? I am afraid there is ; and
here, as a servant of Government, it behoves me to be careful
in what I say, but I take courage from the Viceroy's witty
figure of speech on a late occasion, and feel sure that no Eng-
lish Government would wish to be treated as the Parsees treat
their dead ; to be surrounded by a Tower of Silence. Medicine
is not an honored calling amongst Englishmen,
an honored call- There is no use blinking the fact. It is the Cin-
ing among Eng- drella amongst professions. It wears the poor
clothing an/i does the drudgery, whilst its sisters,
Law and Divinity, and in this country Arms and the Civil Service,
are clad in purple and fine linen and obtain all the honors. You
hear it called an " honorable profession," a " noble " profession,
but this alludes to its work not to its rewards. No .English
physician) ever so famous, was ever ennobkd. In this country no
English physician has ever been deemed worthy a seat in the
Legislative Council. If the English gods churned the ocean for
lost treasures, I am afraid it's not a "learned Physician" they
would bring up ; or if by chance they did, they would not make
him king of Benares; they would most probably pop him in
again, and go on churning, until a lawyer or a clergyman
came up to fill the place and be made a Chancellor or an
Archbishop. It would be waste of time on this occasion my
offering any speculations as to why this is so. I must content
myself with simply mentioning the fact and pointing out how,
in my opinion open, I feel acutely, to the misconstruction of
professional jaundice this state of things is injurious to the
commonwealth. In the first place it deters the men who would
honor and benefit medicine with their acquirements and social
influence, seeking a career in this most useful and intellectual
profession. All men of any worth are more or less ambitious
of distinctions, and such men avoid medicine and overcrowd
the ranks of other professions. You do it in this country. But
in other ways of even more importance it is injurious. How
many fair enterprises of our country have been shipwrecked,
because the feeble voice of medicine (feeble from its position)



Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 45 of 66)