French Medicine and Training in India

The Ecole de Medicine de Pondichéry established by the French Government in 1823, became Medical College, Pondicherry after de jure transfer of Puducherry to India in 1956. For a brief time, it was also named Dhanvantri Medical College. The building now houses the Legislative Assembly of Puducherry. [Ref: S. Chandrashekhar, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, The National Medical Journal of India, 1992, Vol.6, No. 6, p. 299-300]

On 30th June 1898, Father Just-Théodore Falourd, a French missionary in Pondichéry died in a syncope a few hours after his surgery. Father Falourd was one of the sincerest missionaries who were working in Pondichéry in the late nineteenth century. His unfortunate demise happened in Hôpital Colonial. 

The Jesuit missionaries were among the first people to bring western medicine to India. It is found that towards the late 1690s a Jesuit-run hospital existed in Pondichéry. L’Hôpital Militaire was established near L’église du Sacré Cœur de Jésus in 1738. Another hospital has been found to exist in the outskirts of Pondichéry around the 1740s, managed by the missionaries of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (Raman, 2017). 

The real turn, as we casually wonder with fellow academics, came after the establishment of le Ministère de la Santé (Health Commission) by the French Government in Pondichéry. It happened in the mid-1860s. This was preceded by the establishment of L’École de Médicine de Pondichéry to train medical practiciners. 

In a review, Pierre Julian (Revue d’Histoire de la Pharmacie, Année 1968, 199, p. 226) wrote,

La première installation officielle des Français à Pondichéry date du 4 février 1673. Un chirurgien y est présent dès 1674. Il faudra toutefois attendre le XVIII* siècle, passée l’occupation hollandaise, pour y trouver un service médical constitué. Il est assuré par des chirurgiens navigants de la Compagnie des Indes, qui ne tardent pas à former du personnel localement, y compris des médecins.

Un premier hôpital est édifié à partir de 1701, un plus important à partir de 1734. La Compagnie des Indes fournit les médicaments, — pilules de Belloste, pilules de Petit et de Chaber, poudre fébrifuge de La Jutais, pilules antivénériennes dont un inventaire dénombre un total de 3.600 — et demande des rapports sur l’essai de certaines drogues. Lorsqu’on manque de médicaments, on en emprunte aux Jésuites.

Au XIX* siècle, retrouvant ses comptoirs de l’Inde après l’occupation anglaise, la France édicté, par une ordonnance de 1823, un véritable code de la santé publique. Une Commission de santé est créée, qui comprend parmi ses membres le médecin, le chirurgien et le pharmacien du Roi. Des dispositions réglementent l’inspection des pharmacies et les prix et répriment le compérage médico-pharmaceutique.

En 1829, les deux pharmacies privées fusionnent en une seule pour former la Pharmacie du gouvernement, dont l’historique a été retracé naguère par le pharmacien colonel Giboin. La médecine traditionnelle est reconnue: en 1848 l’ouverture d’une boutique de drogues indiennes est autorisée. En 1849 arrive à Pondichéry un pharmacien de la marine, Lépine, dont l’activité scientifique rayonnera sur toute l’Inde pendant vingt ans.

The first official installation of the French in Pondicherry dates from February 4, 1673. A surgeon has been present there since 1674. It will be necessary, however, to wait until the eighteenth* century, after the Dutch occupation, to find a medical service there. It was provided by flight surgeons from the Compagnie des Indes, who were quick to train local personnel, including doctors.

The first hospital was built in 1701, a larger one from 1734. The Compagnie des Indes provided the medicines, – Belloste pills, Petit and Chaber pills, febrifuge powder from La Jutais (to treat fever), anti-venereal pills, of which an inventory counts a total of 3,600 – and asks for reports on the testing of certain drugs. When they run out of medicine, they borrow it from the Jesuits.

In the nineteenth century, recovering its counters in India after the English occupation, France enacted, by an ordinance of 1823, a veritable code of public health. A Health Commission is created, which includes among its members the doctor, the surgeon, and the pharmacist of the King. Provisions regulate the inspection of pharmacies and prices and repress medico-pharmaceutical collusion.

In 1829, the two private pharmacies merged into one to form the Government Pharmacy, the history of which was recently traced by the pharmacist Colonel Giboin. Traditional medicine is recognized: in 1848 the opening of an Indian drug store is authorized. In 1849, a naval pharmacist, Lépine, arrived in Pondicherry, whose scientific activity spread throughout India for twenty years.

Pierre Julien, d’après : Alfred Bigot, La médecine française à Pondichéry aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, in Comptes rendus du 91e Congrès national des sociétés savantes, Rennes, 1966, Section des sciences, t. I, Hist, des sciences, Paris, 1967, p. 31-46.
Ecole de Medicine de Pondichéry established by the French Government in 1823. [Ref: S. Chandrashekhar, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, The National Medical Journal of India, 1992, Vol.6, No. 6, p. 299-300]

Offering Docteur Médecin, Ecole de Medicine de Pondichéry trained Indians to become practicing physicians in various disciplines, the training guideline of which was monitored by Bureau de Santé Français in Paris.

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