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st Anniversary Special
G AN UNOFFICIAL BIOGRAPHY OF INDIA | SCIENCE & MEDICINE
The Crest Edition
THE TIMES OF INDIA
ero, the place-system, the value of pi, the circumference of the earth, axial rotation, quadratic equations — India has made glorious contributions to mathematics. The first known mathematician, Baudhayan, lived around 800 BCE. Not much is known about him, except that he developed a value for pi and calculated the square root of 2. It is believed that Indian mathematicians first discovered the ‘zero’ around 425 BCE and followed it up with the system of expressing every possible number using a set of 10 symbols (0 to 9) with each numeral having a place value and an absolute value. Much later, Aryabhatta (476-550 CE) developed the quadratic equation and its solutions while Bhaskara I (600-680 CE) propounded the values of trigonometric functions.
1st DISSECTION OF HUMAN BODY
andit Madhusudan Gupta, a Bengali vaidya, performed the first dissection of a human body in India on January 10, 1836, at Calcutta Medical College. It marked a huge event for medical science in India — a seven-gun salute boomed from Fort William to mark the occasion — as a major taboo in Hindu society against touching a dead body was finally broken. Madhusudan was ostracised by the orthodox section of Calcutta society. Finally, an assemblage of pandits was arranged by the Lt Governor of Bengal and Gupta quoted Sanskrit texts to establish the existence of human dissection in ancient India.
ryabhatta (476–550 CE) was the first Indian to say that the earth rotates on its axis and that the paths of planetary bodies are elliptical. He calculated the circumference of the earth. Some decades later, Ujjain’s Brahmagupta (598–668 CE) developed accurate methods of calculating paths of heavenly bodies, eclipses and conjunctions. He was the first to state that the moon is much nearer to the earth than the sun.
noculation or variolation against a disease is believed to have originated in India as far back as 1000 BCE. From here it is said to have spread to China and the Arab world, going to the West from there. Inoculation is the introduction of powdered scabs or blister fluid from smallpox infected people into a healthy person by puncturing the skin to produce a mild form of the disease that would give the person immunity from severe illness.
1st WOMEN TO GET MEDICAL DEGREES
hane’s Anandibai Joshi (above) became the first Indian woman to obtain a degree in Western medicine when she graduated with an MD from the Women’s Medical College, Pennsylvania, on March 11, 1886. The same year, Calcutta Medical College student Kadambini Ganguly became the first woman to get a medical degree from an Indian institution. Upon her return from the US, the princely state of Kolhapur appointed Joshi the physician-in-charge of the women’s ward of the Albert Edward Hospital. She died on February 26, 1887, before she turned 22. Meanwhile, Kadambini established a private practice and was appointed to the Lady Dufferin Women’s Hospital in 1888. Since then, Indian women have made considerable progress in medicine — 46 per cent of the admissions to the 300-plus medical colleges in the country today are women.
1st SCIENTIST TO WIN A NOBEL PRIZE
handrashekhara Venkata Raman became the first Indian scientist (in fact, the first non-white scientist) to get a Nobel prize in 1930 for his discovery of the Raman Effect. The breakthrough research on the scattering of light with changed frequency is considered a crucial landmark in the theory of light, and forms a cornerstone of modern quantum physics. Other investigations carried out by Raman were: his studies on the diffraction of light by acoustic waves of ultrasonic and hypersonic frequencies (published 1934-1942), and those on the effects produced by X-rays on infrared vibrations in crystals exposed to ordinary light.
1st INDIAN IN SPACE
quadron Leader Rakesh Sharma made history when he became the first Indian in space on April 2, 1984. Sharma was part of the Soyuz T-11 mission that carried him and two cosmonauts to the Salyut 7 space station, where they spent eight days. Sharma was also the first Indian to have his call to the prime minister from space televised nationally. When Indira Gandhi asked him how India looked from space, he famously replied, “Saare jahan se achcha”.
onfidom became the first female condom available in India when Thiruvananthapuram-based Hindustan Latex Ltd (HLL) imported it from Britain’s Female Health Company in 2006. HLL later started producing female condoms at its own facilities. Initially, these condoms were made of polyurethane. The newer versions are made of nitrile, another form of rubber, and are cheaper, stronger, smoother, thinner and more reliable than a male condom that is made of latex rubber. Today, the several brands of female condoms that exist in the Indian market and go for anything between Rs 35 and Rs 125 per condom owe their success to Confidom.
1st FEMALE CONDOM C
COURTSEY: DE PENNING & DE PENNING
1st TEST TUBE BABY
he first test tube baby in India is surrounded by much controversy. The person credited with this breakthrough, Dr Subhas Mukhopadhyay, lived in ignominy for three decades before his work was recognised and lauded. He produced the first Indian test tube baby on October 3, 1978, just 67 days after Marie Louise Brown — the world’s first test tube baby. At the time, no one believed the doctor’s claim. What added insult to injury was that he was not allowed to carry any further research on in-vitro fertilisation, and was also prevented from going to Tokyo to present a paper. Humiliated, frustrated and in failing health, Mukhopadhyay killed himself on June 19, 1981. Finally, in 2003, the Indian Council for Medical Research acknowledged his achievement. But the delayed honour could not bring any cheer even to his wife, Namita, who has been paralysed and neglected since her husband’s suicide. The widely acknowledged first test tube baby was produced by Dr Indira Hinduja of KEM Hospital Mumbai on August 6, 1986.
1st PATENT, WIRELESS, SCIENCE FICTION
n 1895, two years before Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi unveiled the findings of his wireless experiments, Jagdish Chandra Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell from a distance using microwaves in the millimetre range at an event organised at the Town Hall in Kolkata which was witnessed by Lt Governor Mackenzie. Bose was firmly opposed to patents, but he is credited with the first-ever US patent (no: 755840 of 1904) in an Indian’s name for “detector of electrical disturbances”. Bose also wrote the first science fiction story Niruddesher Kahini in India.
1st PATENT FILED IN INDIA
eorge Alfred De Penning, a Calcutta-based English civil engineer, received the first Indian patent for a device he called ‘An Efficient Punkah-Pulling Machine’ in 1856 under a new legislation enacted for ‘the encouragement of inventions’. De Penning went on to obtain a few more patents and founded an early version of an IPR firm. The Chennai-based De Penning & De Penning still offers services in the field of patents.
1st HIV/AIDS CASES
ix female sex workers in Chennai, diagnosed by Dr Suniti Solomon of Madras Medical College, became the first known HIV-positive Indians in 1986. Among the six was a 13-year-old girl, kidnapped and forced into the sex trade. In the following weeks, Mumbai reported a spurt of HIV-positive cases and the virus slowly spread across the country. The National AIDS Control Programme was launched in 1987 to co-ordinate responses against the disease.
1st INSTITUTION TO TRAIN NURSES
1st NOSE JOB
nd you thought only Koena Mitra could get a nose job. As far back as 600 BC, Acharya Sushruta, a surgeon from Kashi (present-day Varanasi), performed the first rhinoplasty (‘karnabandha’ in Sanskrit). He described the procedure in Sushruta Samhita. Amputation of the nose was a common punishment for crimes during Sushruta’s time, and he, along with his students, reconstructed noses using skin from patients’ foreheads. The technique spread to Persia and Arabia and then to Egypt and Europe.
t Stephens Hospital, Delhi, became the first institution to start training Indian girls as nurses in 1867 after graduates from the Nightingale School of Nurses at St Thomas Hospital, England were sent to India to start nursing schools. In 1871, the first school of nursing was started at the Government General Hospital, Madras, with four students taking a six-month Diploma Midwives’ Programme. Today, over 2,000 institutions teach nursing in India and they churn out over 75,000 nurses every year. Thousands of them migrate to developed countries like the UK and the US, and also to the Gulf.
© CORBIS/MAKUS DLOUHY/DAS FOTOARCHIV
1st SUCCESSFUL OPEN HEART SURGERY
r N Gopinath performed India’s first successful open heart surgery at Christian Medical College, Vellore, in 1962, using the heart lung machine, less than two years after the first such surgery done anywhere in the world. The first successful heart transplant in India has two claimants — it is said that Dr P Venugopal performed a heart transplant in 1994 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, while Dr K M Cherian is said to have performed a transplant on September 23, 1995, at Chennai’s Vijaya Hospital.
1st X-RAY MACHINE
he first X-ray machine was installed at Lady Hardinge Hospital, Delhi, in 1918, and a chair in radiology was established at the Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital in 1923. After World War I, the government set up a dispensary with X-ray facilities in the vicinity of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi.