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Dr Upendranath Brahmachari: Remembering the Forgotten Genius and Saint of India

Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Jamalpur, Bihar on 19th December 1873

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Kala-Azar
Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari. Wikimedia
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  • Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Bihar in the year 1873
  • He grew up specializing in medicine and surgery
  • The doctor is said to have saved millions of lives through curing a viral disease called Kala-Azar

August 22, 2017: A renowned and prominent name in the hall of fame list of Indian scientists is Upendranath Brahmachari who was famous in the field of medicine.

Dr. Brahmachari’s most important work during his lifetime was his discovery of Urea Stibamine, a treatment for the fatal disease called Kala-Azar.

BACKGROUND: Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Jamalpur, Bihar on 19th December 1873. At the time, Bihar and Assam were in shambolic states. But Dr. Brahmachari had a fairly secure growing up phase. His father, Dr. Nilmony Brahmachari, was a famous medical practitioner in the Indian as well as European communities. Dr. Nilmony Brahmachari worked as a physician in East Indian Railways.

Dr. Upendranath did his schooling from Eastern Railway’s Boys High School. He loved math and had excellent academic records. The young genius went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry and mathematics in 1893 from Hooghly Mohsin College. Further, Brahmachari did polymath. He got a Master’s degree in medicine from Kolkata’s Presidency College. His Ph.D. was a thesis on ‘Haemolysis’ which he earned in 1904.

ALSO READ: Hindu Philosophy fascinated WB Yeats: Remembering him and his Timeless Poetry at Jaipur Literature Festival

CAREER: Upendranath Brahmachari began his career as a doctor in Kolkata under Sir Gerald Bomford. Impressed by the talent, in 1901 Sir Bomford offered Brahmachari, who was 27 at the time, to teach physiology in Dacca Medical School.

Later in 1905, Brahmachari was appointed as a teacher in medicine and physician at Kolkata’s Campbell Medical School. This is where Dr. Brahmachari made some of his remarkable and outstanding discoveries, most notably, the discovery of Urea Stibamine.

This discovery was to become a significant treatment for the fatal disease called Kala-Azar. Kala-Azar is a disease strictly limited to the Mediterranean as well as South Asian nations. Sand flies are known to transmit this disease. Various characteristics broadly include irregular fever, anemia, and enlarged liver and spleen. Kala-Azar was known as the second largest parasitic killer of the world, followed by Malaria.

A treatment for Kala-Azar existed at the time but it was not helping the rapid death rates due to the disease. Dr. Brahmachari had been devoting his time to finding a treatment that had little to no disadvantages but could not come up with anything.

In 1919, his breakthrough came knocking at the door. The Indian Research Fund Association had granted resources to Brahmachari for conducting more in-depth research for the treatment of the disease. With this help, in his Campbell Medical School lab, the Doctor discovered Urea Stibamine.

Kala-Azar today is a rare disease only present in a handful of remote places. Especially in Assam where the disease thrived, many lives were saved.

Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari instantly became a popular figure in the Indian science academia. His discovery was now successfully incorporated into the growing scientific knowledge in medicine. His masterpiece “Treatise on Kala-Azar” became an essential reference reading in medicine. Moreover, his other works include treatment of malaria, dermal leishmaniasis, quartan fever, blackwater fever, and more.

Brahmachari retired in 1927 but continued to participate in Kolkata’s cultural and humanitarian activities. He stayed connected to all literary and scientific organizations in Kolkata.

Achievements: The World’s Second Blood Bank which was formed in Kolkata was driven by the efforts of Dr. Brahmachari. He was also the Head of Department for Biochemistry in Kolkata’s University College of Science, where he was also the Honorary Professor of Biochemistry.

The Asiatic Society of Bengal awarded Upendranath Brahmachari with ‘Sir William Jones Medal’. He was also awarded the Griffith Memorial Prize by the University of Kolkata. The Kolkata School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene awarded the Doctor a Minto Medal.

He became the first Indian to be elected as the chairman of Managing body of Kolkata Branch of the Indian Red Cross Society.

For his numerous contributions to science, he was awarded the title of Rai Bahadur in 1924. The same year, Brahmachari was also awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind gold medal.

In the year 1929, the famous scientist was honored with being nominated for the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine and almost won India the first Nobel Prize in the category, however, it was won by Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins and Christiaan Eijkman for their detailed work on vitamins. Brahmachari was also conferred a knighthood by the British Government in 1934.

Brahmachari was also conferred a knighthood by the British Government in 1934.

Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari’s name comes along with Satyendra Nath Bose as two main figures during the Bengal Rennaissance.

Death: On 6th February 1946, Brahmachari passed away aged 72. For his contributions to the Kolkata society’s well-being, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation changed the name of Loudon street to D.R UN Brahmachari Street.

 – Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394


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Facts About India’s First Female Doctor: Rukhmabai Raut

Rukhmabai worked to a great extent for the upliftment and betterment of women. She even published a pamphlet and called it “Purdah-the need for its abolition.”

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Rukhmabai was born on November 22, 1864, in a Marathi family to Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibai. Wikimedia Commons
Rukhmabai was born on November 22, 1864, in a Marathi family to Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibai. Wikimedia Commons
  • Rukhmabai was involved in a landmark legal case involving her marriage as a child bride between 1884 and 1888
  • Rukhmabai was born on November 22, 1864
  • Rukhmabai was married at the age of 11 to a 19-year-old boy Dadaji Bhikaji

Rukhmabai Raut was one of the bold and progressive women of that time. The other notable first Indian females to practice medicine are Anandibai Joshi, Kadambini Ganguly and Chandramukhi Basu.

Rukhmabai was the first Indian physician who is best known for being one of the first Indian women doctors in colonial India as well as being involved in a landmark legal case involving her marriage as a child bride between 1884 and 1888. It was a real big deal back then in India at that time.

Also Read: Rene Laennec: The Man Who Invented Stethoscope

 

Rukhmabai was the first Indian physician. Wikimedia Commons
Rukhmabai was the first Indian physician. Wikimedia Commons

The case raised quite a significant public debate across Indian society, which mostly included law vs tradition, social reform vs conservatism and feminism in both British-ruled India and England. The uproar ultimately contributed to the Age of Consent Act in 1891.

Rukhmabai was born on November 22, 1864, in a Marathi family to Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibai. Her mother suffered because of the custom of child marriage. Rukhmabai was known for her staunch stand against divorce and her love for higher studies in medicine.

Before becoming one of the pioneers of women emancipation, Rukhmabaihad a life full of struggle

Top 5 Unknown Facts about Rukhmabai Raut?

  1. Rukhmabai was married at the age of 11 to a 19-year-old boy Dadaji Bhikaji. She was just 8 years old when her father. Rukhmabai chose to complete her education. It is said that the couple never lived together

2. Rukhmabai’s Mother Jayantibai transferred all her property to her. Later, Jayantibai remarried and Rukhmabai step-father supported her at every step.

3. Rukhmabai refused to live with her husband and maternal-in-laws because they were after her property that she inherited from his deceased father. She even fought a long legal case against her husband and in the end, Dadaji Bhikaji won the case. The judgment was criticised by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and other prominent Hindu leaders. The court criticized her stance on marriage and her aversion to reuniting with her husband.

4. In 1884, Rukhmabai’s husband filed a petition in the Bombay High Court and pleaded to restore conjugal rights of the husband over his wife. The court in its judgement told Rukhmabai to comply or to go to prison. Rukhmabai refused the judgment and stated that she would suffer imprisonment rather than entering into a marriage she did not want.

5. The case again came to court in 1887. This time, Rukhmabai wrote numerous pieces of letters under a pseudo name,“A Hindu Lady”, stating the condition of women, who became victims of child marriage. Her articles got her the support and public sentiments in her favour.

Also Read: Acharya Charaka: Indian father Of Medicine, Author of Charaka Samhita “science of Ayurveda”

6. Rukhmabai did not take the lying down and pleaded Queen Victoria. But still, she had to shell out  Rs 2000 to her husband as a settlement.

Google India paid a rich tribute to Dr Rukhmabai Raut by dedicating its doodle depicting a lady with a stethoscope around her neck. Wikimedkia Commons
Google India paid a rich tribute to Dr Rukhmabai Raut by dedicating its doodle depicting a lady with a stethoscope around her neck. Wikimedkia Commons

7. A public fund was raised to support her travel and study in England at the London School of Medicine for the 5 years degree course.

8. After her successful completion of medicine course, Rukhmabai returned to India as a qualified physician in 1894 and joined a hospital in Surat as the First practising female doctor in India. There she served as the chief medical officer for 35 long years and retired around 1930. She breathed her last in 1955, at the age of 91.

9. Rukhmabai worked to a great extent for the upliftment and betterment of women. She even published a pamphlet and called it “Purdah-the need for its abolition.”

10. Last year, even Google India paid a rich tribute to Dr Rukhmabai Raut by dedicating its doodle depicting a lady with a stethoscope around her neck, surrounded by women patients and nurses in a hospital.