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From Artillery Barracks to Anarkali: The Ancient History of King Edward Medical College, Lahore – The Friday Times

The early history of King Edward Medical College is inextricably linked with the establishment of Western medical education in the Indian subcontinent. Although some Indians worked under British doctors as apprentices, their education and training was neither systematic nor organized.

On June 21, 1822, the East India Company government issued a general order ordering the establishment of a medical college in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He ordered that 20 Indian students be admitted and recruited by the superintendent surgeon. He was further tasked with translating medical books into the local language and instructing students in that language. Students were to receive a stipend of Rs.8 per month while studying. After gaining their qualification, if they choose to join government service, they were to serve in the army or civil department for 15 years and were to be paid Rs.20 per month with an additional allowance of Rs.5 while serving on field.

This model was used with minor modifications in the following two medical colleges which were established in Madras (Madras Medical School and College) in 1835 and in Bombay (Grant Medical College) in 1845.

Due to the difficulty of imparting Western medical education in native languages, it was decided to make English the language of instruction in medical schools. A government-appointed committee has recommended that students entering medical school be fluent in THE English language, be able to read, write and speak fluently in English, and be able to analyze a passage in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Robertson’s stories, or other classical works. (I wonder if an incoming medical student will be qualified to enter medical school under these criteria.)

King Edward VII. On his death, the college bears his name in 1910

Efforts had been made as early as 1837 to open a medical school in Lahore. The appointment of Sir John Lawrence (of Lawrence Gardens fame) as British Resident (Chief Commissioner) of Punjab in 1853 gave impetus to the idea. But the idea did not come to fruition until 1860 due to the unrest caused by the First War of Independence otherwise known as the Mutiny of 1857.

When the Lahore Medical School was established in 1860, the English-only rule was dropped. Two groups of students were to be admitted, to be taught in English and Urdu.

Dr. JB Scriven was recruited as principal of the new school. He had previously served as Medical Superintendent of Calcutta General Hospital.

In November 1860, an admission exam was held and 20 students were selected for an Urdu class, but none qualified for the English class. A second admission exam was held a few months later and this time five candidates were selected for the English language class and another 24 candidates were selected for the Urdu class. A high school diploma was the minimum admission requirement.

The school was established in the artillery barracks, located at the time where the Government College now stands. The first hospital was opened in the stables of Raja Suchet Singh at Tibbi Bazar about a mile from the artillery barracks. The hospital had open wards and catered to the medical needs of 90,000 citizens of Lahore city.

In 1886, the authorities decided to have a faculty of medicine as well as a medical school in the same premises. The idea was to teach Western Medicine, Unani Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine in Urdu at Lahore Medical College and teach Western Medicine in English at Lahore Medical College. Students from both institutions used Mayo Hospital for their clinical training

Instruction in English was relatively easy as most textbooks were in that language. For the Urdu language class, textbooks and other course materials had to be translated from English to Urdu. As the translation of English texts into Urdu started in earnest, the first Urdu class of the medical school in Lahore had to procure Urdu texts which were used in Calcutta and Bombay.

In the beginning, the school staff consisted of the principal, a professor of medicine, a professor of surgery, a professor of chemistry, an Urdu class superintendent, an assistant demonstrator in anatomy, a resident surgeon and an apothecary (pharmacist). Since students only had a high school diploma, premedical science subjects such as chemistry, biology, and physiology were taught in the medical school. Most teachers had more than one function and taught several subjects. In 1863, 27 students graduated from the Urdu class and only one from the English class.

Ganjina-e-Tibabat Newspaper

Construction of College and Hospital buildings
The hospital was built near Sarai Ratan Chand on land known as Hari Singh Gardens. Hari Singh Nalwa was a trusted general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

New Materia Medica: Textbook of Pharmacology translated from English

The construction of the hospital started in 1867 under the supervision of Rai Bahadur Kanhiyya Lal Hindi who was in government service as an executive engineer. It took three years to complete the project at a cost of Rs.155,000. When completed, the hospital was called Government Hospital, but later it was renamed Mayo Hospital in honor of Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo and at the time Viceroy of India.

The college was moved from the artillery barracks to its present location near Anarkali Bazar in 1870, around the same time the new hospital began to operate.

Lahore medical school begins teaching indigenous medical systems
The period between 1870 and 1882 marks a rather bizarre period in the history of medical education in Lahore, as courses were started in Ayurvedic medicine and Unani (Greek) medicine.

Here is the variety of degrees offered:

Type of course Diploma Designation in service
Middle English Western Medicine Bachelor of Medicine Assistant surgeon
Western Medicine Urdu-middle Bachelor of Medicine native doctor
Unani medicine taught in Urdu hakim hazik Umdat-ul-Hikma / Zubdat-ul-Hikma
Ayurvedic medicine taught in Urdu Vaida Bhishak / Maha Bhishak

In 1886, the authorities decided to have a faculty of medicine as well as a medical school in the same premises. The idea was to teach Western Medicine, Unani Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine in Urdu at Lahore Medical College and teach Western Medicine in English at Lahore Medical College. Students from both institutions have used Mayo Hospital for their clinical training. The school was separated from the college in the late 1880s, then in 1920 it was moved to Amritsar. In 1890, the school abandoned the teaching of indigenous medicine and issued the degree of license in medicine and surgery (LMS). The College awarded the degree of Bachelor of Medicine (MB), which was changed in 1912 to Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS).

The trajectory of what is now King Edward Medical University is interesting. For the first 26 years between 1960 and 1886, it was called Lahore Medical School. From 1886 to 1910 it was called Lahore Medical College. In 1910, when King Edward died, the college was named after him. In 2005 it became King Edward Medical University.

Behr Hikmat Newspaper

Teaching materials
While it was easy to teach in English, it was a great task to translate English texts into Urdu. The work was done by many bilingual teachers at the school. Not only the current medical textbooks have been translated, but articles from the leading medical journal Lancet have also been translated and published in Urdu medical journals. It is amazing that by the end of the 1870s, three journals had been published and widely distributed to all government hospitals and dispensaries in Punjab and what later became the North West Frontier Province.

1. Bahar-e-Hikmat was a monthly journal published by Lahore Medical College. The journal published articles on topical issues, some of them serialized over numerous issues. The translation of the conferences given by the guest professors also benefited from a space. Each issue carried letters to the editors section where comments, reviews and new findings were reported.

2. Ganjina-e-Tibabat was published under the patronage of Dr. SH Brown, Principal of Lahore Medical College. This journal quoted medical news extensively from Britain and published innovative techniques and treatments reported by subscribers. A section of the newspaper reported on promotions, transfers and furloughs for government-employed doctors in Punjab province.

3. There was also a newspaper Risala-e-Tibb-e-Adalat (Journal of Medical Jurisprudence) which dealt with medico-legal matters.

Tibb e Akbar, a book of Unani medicine and prescriptions. These books were used by students in Urdu class of Lahore medical school

The story of the transformation of Lahore Medical School into King Edward Medical College is fascinating. Living in the present, one tends to forget how far an institution has come and what obstacles it has encountered in reaching its current status. Today we see more because we stand on the shoulders of those giants who paved the way for us.

Jacques Barzun, an eminent cultural historian (1907-2012) said:

“The pioneers, the first who struggle outside the established systems and who form new and useful conceptions, seem only half right, incomplete; and their names remain distant. But they are perhaps more to be treasured than those that come after, clearing rubble and providing a cleaner, fuller view.

Author’s note: This article is based on a lecture given at King Edward Medical College on the College’s 125th anniversary on December 17, 1985.

Next week: Profile of a swashbuckling first graduate of Lahore medical college