Oct 192020
 

Royal College of Physicians, 11 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JQ

Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians

When Kadambini Ganguly received her BA from the University of Calcutta in 1883, she became the first woman to graduate in India. This was monumental, since Calcutta Medical College had initially refused to admit her because of her gender. In 1893, she travelled to Edinburgh and studied for the Scottish Triple at the Royal College of Physicians. At the time, travelling to the UK to study was limited to a small but growing wealthy elite in India. At the college, she took courses in medicine, therapeutics, surgery, anatomy, midwifery, and medical jurisprudence. Ganguly continuously challenged society’s expectations of her. Her decision to study medicine abroad as a married woman provoked backlash from the upper-caste Bengali community, and when she received her diploma she was the only successful woman candidate in her cohort. When Ganguly returned to India, she practiced obstetrics and gynecology at Lady Dufferin Hospital in Calcutta, combining her medical work with political activism. She was one of six women delegates to the fifth session of the Indian National Congress in 1889, and organized a Women’s Conference in Calcutta in the aftermath of the 1906 partition of Bengal (which separated the majority Muslim East from the largely Hindu West).

Kadambini Ganguly
Kadambini Ganguly
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Apr 032019
 

9 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JQ

Royal College of Physicians today

Professor William Pulteney Alison was President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1836-38 and a key figure in early debates about Edinburgh’s poor relief provision. Working as a physician in the New Town Dispensary and at the Royal Infirmary, he came into frequent contact with the poorest of the city’s population. Alison became known for his view that disease was linked to poverty and advocated that poor relief be extended to include the healthy impoverished. At the time, this suggestion was radical, as the able-bodied destitute were often viewed as indolent, sinful, and undeserving of assistance. Unlike in England, where poor relief was written into legislation, in Scotland voluntary charity was supposed to provide for the poor. In advocating for government intervention to alleviate poverty to combat disease, Alison was ahead of his time, but he lived to see public opinion move closer to his views.

Royal College of Physicians today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical sketch of Royal College of Physicians, 1891

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait painting of William Pulteney Alison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits: Ema Smekalova, Wikipedia, and the Wellcome Collection

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