CME INDIA Presentation by Professor Shibendu Ghosh, Kolkata, Vice-president API headquarters, India.

It was done almost 3000 years after Sushruta. Salute again and again to the first Indian dissector, Madhusudan Gupta.

William Harvey Quote on Anatomy

  • The first dissection in Calcutta Medical College by a high-caste Hindu ushered in ramifications of medicine into every aspect of Indian society.
  • It changed the perception of body, disease and self of the Indian population.
  • Medicine brought forth a new paradigm of knowing the body.
  • He is historically tied up with the first dissection and controversies.
  • It was also Asia’s first human dissection.

First human dissection in India by Madhusudhan

Madhusudhan Gupta

India’s first human dissection at Calcutta Medical College

  • Pandit Madhusudan Gupta (1800 – 15th November 1856) was a Bengali Brahmin translator & Ayurvedic practitioner.
  • He was also trained in western Medicine.
  • Performed India’s first human dissection at Calcutta Medical College, in 1836, almost 3000 years after Sushruta

Know the Amazing journey

  • Studied Ayurvedic medicine at the Sanskrit College and became teacher there.
  • Translated number of English texts into Sanskrit, including Hooper’s Anatomists’ Ved-mecum. Attended anatomy & medicine lectures in Europe.
  • Performed the first human dissection under the guidance of Professor Henry Goodeve.
  • In 1837, his involvement with the General Committee of the Fever Hospital & Municipal improvements included recommendations for Kolkata’s sanitation, better maternal care & smallpox vaccination in Kolkata.
  • He was born in a well-established family of Ayurvedic doctors (Vaidyas) in a place called Baidyabati (residence of Baidyas i.e. Vaidyas), some 50 kilometres from Calcutta.
  • In 1826, he joined the newly started course on Ayurvedic medicine in Calcutta’s Sanskrit College.
  • In 1830, for his exceptional talent Madhusudan was made a student-cum- teacher in the same college.
  • After finishing his formal education at the college, he was appointed as a full-fledged teacher. When Calcutta Medical College was established in 1835, he was appointed the Chief Native Teacher there.
  • His primary responsibility was to translate and guide first generation of Indian medical students. While being a teacher, he was persuaded to appear for MBBS exam, which he cleared with distinction in 1840.

MBBS in those days

  • Very few people could actually pass MBBS in first few years.
  • As the government needed many more Indian doctors – particularly for the Army – they started a shorter course for Indians through Hindustani
  • Madhusudan was made the Superintendent of that course.
  • Later in 1852, a course in Bengali was introduced and again it was Dr Madhusudan Gupta, who was asked to be the head.
  • Already in 1849, he was made a First Class Sub-Assistant Surgeon. He also translated a number of English text books into Sanskrit and Bengali and in that process coined some of the first medical terms in Bengali.

Snapshot of a life We hardly know  

  • Gupta became a Sanskrit scholar and an Ayurvedic physician.
  • In 1830, he was promoted from student to teacher at the Sanskrit College, a position he retained until January 1835.
  • Initially, the promotion had caused an outcry among the students who boycotted his lessons

Medical translations

  • In 1834, Gupta was paid 1,000 rupees for translating Hooper’s Anatomists’ Ved-mecum. It was completed under the title of Śärîravidyā (“Science of Things Relating to the Body”)
  • It  was taken up for publication by the Asiatic Society, but was abandoned after page thirty-six. due to conflicting opinions on which language it was to be published in.
  • It was following much discussion and the formation of a committee, that it was ultimately published in Sanskrit rather than Hindi.

Calcutta Medical College (CMC)

  • Newly founded in March 1835, Gupta was transferred to the CMC, as a native teacher.
  • He became involved in the execution of the first entrance examinations, where he also assisted Henry Goodeve and William Brooke O’Shaughnessy.
  • Introduction to anatomy/The first human dissection
  • Widely acknowledged as the “first Hindu dissector of British India”
  • Gupta has been frequently credited with the launch of modern medicine in India and breaking religious taboos.
  • Hindu prejudice against touching the dead body was seen as a major obstacle in introducing practical anatomy to the College

Response & controversy

  • Almost 3,000 years after Shusruta, the appointed date of the landmark dissection epitomized the rising domination of western medicine.
  • Although 10 January 1836 is frequently cited, this date is disputed and others have cited the date as 28 October 1836.

Later career

  • Following the first dissection, the College authorities requested that Gupta should complete formal medical qualifications to avoid any future student objections to being taught by a “mere kaviraja” or non-doctor.
  • He received a medical degree in 1840.

More translations

He translated the London pharmacopoeia of 1836 in Bengali, the Aushadh Kalpabali.

This book gave “with the English, Latin and names the mode of preparation of Acids, Alkalis, Confections, Decoctions, Plasters, Infusions, Linimentts, Metals, Pills, Powders, Syrups, Tinctures, Ointments”.


  • Average age of menarche in Hindu girls.


  • Paramedical class called the “ Military Class” or “Hindustani Class” in CMC in 1839.


  • Following a dissection, developed infection of hand, gangrene and died of septicemia.
  • He was suffering from Diabetes.
  • On his death, the Director of Public Instruction wrote, “…to him a debt of gratitude is due by his countrymen. He cleared a jungle of prejudice, into which others have successfully pressed.”
  • Pandit, Kaviraj, Doctor Madhusudan Gupta was an example of extraordinary moral courage against prejudice of centuries.

Selected publications

  1. Anatomy arthat Sharir Vidya in Bengali
  2. Translated London Pharmacopoeia in Bengali
  3. Translated Anatomist Vade Mecum in Sanskrit
  4. Chikista Sangraha.
  5. First printed edition of the Sushruta Samhita (2 vols, Calcutta 1835, 1836)


  • The question of whether Gupta’s dissection was the actual first has been debated.
  • In the 1830s, there was enough evidence to suggest that many Hindu students were ready to overcome prejudice and pick up a scalpel and “touch a dead body for the study of anatomy.”
  • In a personal statement in 1836, Gupta speaks of his major achievements, but does not mention the dissection.

The Susruta
The shsruta

CME INDIA Illuminating Points

This scientific breakthrough pioneered by Madhusudan Gupta  had also enormous sociological consequences. It opened the door of Western medicine to the natives of India as practitioners and beneficiaries.

  • T. W. Wilson, the then Principal of the Medical College, wrote in the obituary:

“To him a debt of gratitude is due by his countrymen. He was the pioneer who cleared a space in the jungle of prejudice, into which others have successfully pressed, and it is hoped that his countrymen appreciating his example will erect some monument to perpetuate the memory of the victory gained by Muddoosoodun Gooptu over public prejudice, and from which so many of his countrymen now reap the advantage. The place of Muddoosoodun Goopta has been filled up by Sub-Assistant Surgeon Tameez Khan, a Native of intelligence and promise.”( GCPI, 1856–1957, p. 200)

  • In 1847, in a letter to the editor of Lancet, H. H. Gooedeve wrote:

The most important blow which has yet been struck at the root of native prejudices and superstition, was accomplished by the establishment of the Medical College of Calcutta, and the introduction of practical anatomy as a part of the professional education of Brahmins and Rajpoots, who may now be seen dissecting with an avidity and industry which was little anticipated by those who know their strong religious prejudices upon this point twenty years since Goodeve( H. H., Lancet, 1847, I, 190).

  • In commemoration of Madhusudan’s feat, Drinkwater Bethune, in 1850 gave an emotional account full of rhetoric:
    • On the morning of 10th January, 1836 fifty gun salute was fired from the ramparts of Fort Williams as Madhusudan Gupta entered the dissection room of Calcutta Medical College.
    • At the appointed hour, scalpel in hand, he followed Dr Goodeve into the Godown where the body lay ready.
    • The other students deeply interested in what was going forward but strangely agitated with mingled feelings of curiosity and alarm, crowded after them, but durst not enter the buildings where this fearful deed was to be perpetrated … they peeped through the jilmils, resolved at least to have ocular proof of its accomplishments.
    • And then Madhusuden’s knife, held with a strong and steady hand, made a long and deep incision in the breast, the on-lookers drew a long gasping breath, like men relieved from the weight of some unbearable suspense (Kerr, J., Review of Public Instructions in the Bengal Presidency, from 1835 to 1851, Part II, William H. Allen and Co, London).
    • However, contradictory evidences do not belittle the position of Madhusudan in the history of modern anatomical knowledge in India.
    • The singular act of introduction of dissection-based anatomical knowledge in medical education brought forth some indelible changes in the perception of body, disease and self of the Indian population.

CME INDIA Tail Piece

Calcutta Medical College

  • Calcutta Medical College – India’s first medical college – started medical teaching on 1 June, 1835 with 49 students but very soon a practical problem cropped up.
  • It was unthinkable for high caste Hindu students to defile a dead body. Not only for the students even for the society it was unacceptable.

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