Memorable Day – First Anatomical Dissection in Calcutta Medical College

10th January 1836

India stepped into a new epoch of the history of medical science on January 10, 1836, when the first dissection of human body was done by Dr. Madhusudan Gupta in Medical College, Calcutta.

Till the early eighteenth century only Ayurvedic or Unani methods were available in India for treating various ailments. Lord Bentinck, the Governor General of India (1828-35 CE), was convinced by the likes of Mr. David Hare that there was need for introducing the modern methods of western (allopathic) treatment in India. As per the findings of the committee appointed by Lord Bentinck, which was headed by Dr. John Grant and had Mr. J. C. C. Sutherland, Mr. C.E. Trevelyan, Mr. Thomas Spens, Babu Ram Comul Sen and Mr.M.J.Bramley as members, the Native Medical institution established in 1822 clearly fell below the established standards of medical education, examination system and lacked opportunities of practical training in anatomy. So Lord Bentinck closed down the institute and founded the Medical College of Calcutta, alternatively known as Calcutta Medical College.

However, there was clearly lack of teachers and trainers at the time, especially among the Indians. There was no one to conduct the anatomy practical lessons as the conservative society was up in arms against dissection of human corpse. Dr. Madhusudan Gupta was called upon to undertake this difficult task.

Madhusudan Gupta was born in a family of Vaidyas (old school doctors) and his grand-father was the court physician of the Nawabs of Bengal. Madhusudan started his career as a student of Ayurveda in Sanskrit College in 1826 and was keen to study modern medical science. He not only read the medical books in English but translated them in Arabic and Sanskrit. While still a student he was appointed as an Assistant-teacher in his college. He joined the Medical College in 1835 as a student as well as an Assistant-teacher at the same time.

In 1836 he was called up on to start the anatomical dissection against great odds. He had to face the wrath of contemporary conservative society and was threatened to be socially ostracised. But no amount of societal pressure could deter him as he cited the example of the ancient physician Shusruta who used to undertake dissection in his time.

On January 10, 1836, a new leaf was added to the book of history of medical studies in India. Dr. Madhusudan Gupta and his team undertook the first dissection of human body in Calcutta.

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