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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 21, February 16-28, 2013
First Indian doctor with foreign degree
By A. Raman

Dr. Senjee Pulney Ãndy.

The name 'Senjee Pulney Ãndy' appears prominently in the pages of 19th Century Madras medical history. I met one of his descendants, Ravi Senji, in Madras a few months ago. Ravi shared many biographical details of Pulney Ãndy (hereafter, Ãndy). Ravi Senji is the fifth generation descendant of a brother of Ãndy. According to Ravi, one of their earlier ancestors served in the army of Raja of Gingee (Senji, Senjee) and, in recognition of a heroic deed, this ancestor was honoured with permission to use Senji as a part of the family's name.

Ãndy was born in Trichinopoly in 1831. He studied in Madras Christian College ('First Examination in Arts' class?), then in the Madras Medical College (MMC), when Hugh Francis Clarke Cleghorn was Professor of Botany and Materia Medica there. Cleghorn, a medical doctor from Scotland, developed Forestry as a science in the Madras Presidency and elsewhere in India. Cleghorn's influence on Ãndy seems to have been immense. Between November 1860 and February 1861, Ãndy wrote seven letters to Cleghorn. In his letter dated November 21, 1860, he narrates that he arrived in England at the end of May (1860?) and got his MD at the University of St Andrew's ([UStA], Scotland, in September (1860-?). He lived during the time in Islington, London. He qualified for his MD five months after his Medicinae Baccalaureus et Chirurgiae Magister (MBCM) from MMC. MBCM is the 19th Century equivalent of MBBS, which was offered at MMC from 1857. Between 1850 and 1857 [1857 is the year of start of the University of Madras] the degree 'Graduate of MMC' was awarded to those qualified. In the 17th-19th Centuries, UStA awarded the MD to those who demonstrated sound medical knowledge and practice, on the basis of a reference letter from a person of high standing and on the payment of a fee. The process was conducted by post.

In a letter to the Director General of the Army Medical Department (G. R. Gibson), London, dated November 20, 1860, Ãndy says: "I am a native of India, and received my medical education at Madras Medical College. On the faith of existing regulations as to age and qualifications for admission into Her Majesty's Service in India, I came to England for the express purpose of competing for a medical commission in Her Majesty's Indian forces."

This letter clarifies two points: (1) that PA had qualified in medicine in MMC before he proceeded to the UK, and (2) his purpose of travelling there. Several letters were thereafter exchanged between Ãndy and Gibson in the context of Ãndy's interest in appearing for the Indian Medical Service examination. This, however, never materialised.

'Medical News' (in The Lancet, October 1860) lists "Pulney Ãndy, Senjee, Madras" , along with 35 others, as having qualified for the MD of UStA. Ãndy also qualified for Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (MRCS) in 1861. He was not a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, as mentioned in some documents. On his return to India, Ãndy was appointed as the Superintendent of Vaccination in Calicut, a specially created position as the Malabar region had the highest numbers of fatalities due to pox diseases in the Madras Presidency.

Ãndy published a booklet titled The protective influence of vaccination, which is cited in Stanley Wolpert's Encyclopedia of India, but I could not see the original article. However, I have verified his other two publications: (i) On the use of margosa leaves in small-pox published in the Madras Quarterly Journal of Medical Science (1867), and (ii) On branched palms in southern India published in the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London (1869).

* * *

Ravi Senji told me that Ãndy, before he left Madras for the UK, had promised his mother that he would remain a Hindu during his stay overseas. According to Ravi Ãndy kept his promise to his mother until her death, even though he suffered castigation by his relatives for 'crossing the seas', a taboo of the Hindus of the time. According to Ravi, after serving the Madras Government, Ãndy returned to the UK unable to tolerate social rejection in Madras, married an Englishwoman, and died in the UK in September 1909. Ãndy had a son, Stephen Ãndy who, according to Ravi, lived in Pondicherry, and a daughter. Ãndy was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society, London, on June 20, 1861, with the famous botanist George Bentham chairing the proceedings.

UStA have archived (in the 'Cleghorn Papers' file) seven letters from Ãndy (5 Noel Street, Islington, London) to Cleghorn, dated between November 21, 1860, and February 5, 1861. In the letter dated November 21, Ãndy describes how he had to ask for financial help from his people in Madras: no help came forth except a threat that if he does not preserve caste, they will offer no help. In this letter, he indicates his preference to work as a civil and not as a military surgeon on his return to India; he seeks advice from Cleghorn on his work preference. His letter of December 15 is a polite reminder to Cleghorn seeking his response to his (PA) letter of November 21, 1860. In the letter of December 18, he thanks Cleghorn for the reply; he states that his interview with Earl de Gray enabled him to appear for the Diploma in Surgery examination (MRCS examination). In that letter he also seeks Cleghorn's help in securing a certificate of attendance (at MMC—?) for the Diploma in Surgery examination in the UK. The letter of January 3, 1861 reflects his distress because of the remarks (considered malicious by Ãndy) of a Madras examiner, whom he identifies as D.R. Thompson (an army surgeon stationed in Royapuram). In this letter, Ãndy asks Cleghorn whether he could write to Dr Shaw (whom I could not identify)* to rectify the unfavourable impression the Thompson remarks would have made. The letter of February 1 announces his obtaining his MRCS, achieved through written and oral examinations. In the same letter he seeks financial help from Cleghorn. The letter of February 5 thanks Cleghorn for the money sent and also for other kindnesses.

Perhaps due to the disillusionment caused by his Hindu relatives, Ãndy embraced Christianity. He was baptised at the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society in Calicut on May 3, 1863. After retiring from service on September 12, 1886, Ãndy worked to establish a new Christian movement, the National Church of India (NCI), which "would have a break with Western Christianity and its structure of missionary authority in India". Hugald Grafe in the History of Christianity in India: Tamil Nadu in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries identifies Ãndy's new movement as the National Church of Madras. Nevertheless, Ãndy's effort was to unify the various Christian denominations in India; his vision was to see that NCI would remain rooted in Indian culture and symbolism. Unfortunately, NCI gained little support from local Church leaders. One strong criticism was that NCI was an attempt by high caste Hindu converts to distance themselves from those of the socially marginalised families. NCI lost speed in 1898 and disappeared after Ãndy's death in 1909.

Some readers are likely to know that Anandibai Joshi of Poona was the first Indian woman to get an MD – from the Women's Medical College, Philadelphia. She qualified in 1886, twenty-six years after Ãndy's MD. Striking similarities between the two emerge: similar to the social pain Ãndy endured in Madras, both Anandibai and Gopalrao Joshi (her husband) suffered censuring from, and boycott by, their relatives and other Hindus on her return to India.

Henry Noltie (Royal Botanical Garden of Edinburgh, currently working on a volume on Hugh Cleghorn) alerted me to a letter written by Cleghorn to John H Balfour (1808 – 1884) the Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh; (not to be confused with Edward Balfour of Madras), from Simla on August 14, 1864. This paragraph in the letter confirms details mentioned above.

My dear Balfour

By this mail I send you the Report of the Basel Evangelical Missy. Society for 1863 – at p. 45 you will see a notice of the baptism of Dr Pulny Ãndy – Inspector of Vaccination & formerly one of my pupils in the Madras Medical College – I recd. the intelligence a fortnight ago – and it has filled my heart with joy – Perhaps you remember my receiving several letters from him, when I was under your roof in 1861. He was then in London in pecuniary difficulties – his Hindoo relatives having cut off his allowance because they were told that he lived in lodgings in Smithfield and they intimated that he cd. not recover his caste on return to Madras. After consulting you and Mr W. Elliot I sent him £5 – and wrote several times expressing a hope that his visit to England might be blessed to him – I afterwards found him out in London & again in Madras – and we hear that he appears to walk worthy of his calling and to set a bright example to his countrymen. He long ago repaid the money wch. was required to pay his graduation fees at St Andrews.

H. Cleghorn

* * *

Being an alumnus of Presidency College, Madras, I know that a medal commemorating Ãndy, exists in the Botany Department of the College. Paulraj Dayanandan tells me that nothing worthwhile remembering Ãndy exists in Madras Christian College, Ãndy's alma mater. Dayanandan was awarded the Pulney Ãndy Medal by the University of Madras in 1967. Apart from these two medals celebrating Ãndy's name in Madras, I wonder whether Madras Medical College has anything to remember Ãndy by.

* Editor's Note: The first principal of Madras Medical College.

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In this Issue

A crawl to list heritage sites
Now, a glass-fronted building in the heart of heritage!
Tamil films – alive and kicking
First Indian doctor with foreign degree
From kanji thotti hospital to one of excellence
Oh, for those gardens!
'Pop' goes the soap bubbles

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary
Babu's Toon


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