Sunday, September 29, 2013

Part 1 - Early days. Some milestones in the history of the Colombo Medical School by Dr.Philip G Veerasingam

The story of the Colombo Medical School 

I prepared this presentation for the second annual CoMSAA get together at Wadduwa, Sri Lanka. Unfortunately with the limited time available I could not do the full presentation. The following is my attempt to recreate that lecture.

 Part 1 -Early days .


1839 – Selected students from Ceylon were sent by the British Authorities to the Calcutta Medical College to get trained and graduate in Medicine there.
1870  - Medical School was inaugurated in Colombo – 3 teachers and 25 students. It was located at the General Hospital Colombo.
1880 – The Medical School was elevated to the status of 'Medical College'
1887 – LMS - Licentiate of Medical Sciences - granted by the Colombo Medical College was made register able in the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom.
1913 – Anatomy Block was completed and opened and remains standing to this day.
1921 – Ceylon University College was opened at Reid Avenue, Colombo.
1942 – The Medical College was became the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ceylon. MBBS - Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery was the degree granted by the University of Ceylon to the medical graduates.
1500 odd students at present.

‘Praise not any man till he is dead’ said the ancients’.
‘Envy not any man till you hear the mourners’.
Robert Louis Stevenson
in Tales of the South Sea Islands.
In the 1860s the Colonial Surgeon, Dr.James Loos recommended
that medical facilities should be available throughout the Island 
and to this end a medical school should be opened. The Colombo
Medical School was thus opened by the then Governor Sir
Hercule Robinson. Dr.James Loos was appointed its first principal.

Mudaliyar Samson Rajapakse - 1875
Gifted the land of the present site.

Mudaliyar Samson Rajapakse.
Sir Charles Henry de Soysa, Muhandiram
A.Simon Fernando Wijegooneratne and 
Mudaliyar Vimala Gunawardana donated the

These buildings are no more and the Anatomy
 block, built in 1913, is the oldest building 

Sir Charles Henry De Soysa
Sir Charles Henry de Soysa built and donated
 the De Soysa Lying-In-Home, and his uncle
Mudaliyar Susew de Soysa built and donated the
 ‘Medical Museum’ attached to the Medical 
College. These two institutions were declared
 open by the Governor Sir Robert Longdon on
 December 9, 1879.
Dr. James Loos Was appointed the First
 Principal of the Colombo Medical School in

 Johannes Jacobus (James) Loos. M. D. of
St. Andrew's University in 1866, was
Member of the Royal College of
Physicians of Edinburgh.
In 1867, he was appointed Colonial
Surgeon, Civil
 Medical Department,  CeylonAppointed
 first Principal of the
 Ceylon Medical College in 1870.
Promoted as Principal Civil Medical 
Officer, 1881—1882.
He died 4th May 1904.

Dr. Samuel Fisk Green working as an American Medical Missionary at Manipay, Jaffna, trained as doctors –  Danforth, Waithilingam, Hitchcock, Mills, Paul, just to mention a few of the 115 that graduated between 1848 and 1879, from the Hospital at Manipay, Jaffna.

Excerpt from a letter from Dr. Loos to Dr. Green.
  Dr. James Loos, wrote in 1873 to Dr. Green,

 …the work we are carrying on ( in Colombo ) – a work in which we are humbly imitating you. Medical education in Ceylon is deeply indebted to you and your predecessors”.

Dr.Edwin Lawson Koch - The second Principal.
The  founder of the family in Ceylon was his great
grandfather, Godfried Koch of Brandenberg, who came to the East
in 1755.
Edwin was born on 29 November 1838, the son of
Johann Godfried Koch (Lawyer)and Angenita Dorothea Aldons, at
Jaffna, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). 
He had his early education at Jaffna, and must have spent
many a dreamy afternoon among the beautiful, sturdy ramparts
of the old Dutch Fort where his grandfather had served as a 
Lieutenant (Artillery)  Johann Godfried Koch in the VOC .
At the age of twenty he won a government scholarship which
enabled him to enter the Medical College at Calcutta. There he
further distinguished himself. Besides other prizes he won in 1862
a Gold Medal and the prize for General Proficiency.
At Calcutta he met and afterwards married Miss Emma Millar.
He began his professional career in Ceylon as a Government doctor
on the 25th July 1862.
‘As a writer he was of the highest order’.
‘He published information about the Medical history of Ceylon’.
Dr. Koch was one of the three lecturers - Drs. Andree
and Vanderstraaten being the other two.  
In 1875 he succeeded Dr. Loos as the Principal of the Medical
School which post he held till his tragic and untimely death two
years later. 
The late Dr. J. L. Vanderstraaten, also famous in his time, described him as "a bold surgeon, a successful physician and an expert obstetrician." 
The year 1877 will always be remembered as the saddest in the
history of the Ceylon Medical College.  
On November 9th, of that year Dr. J. C. Evarts, demonstrator in
Anatomy, and a brilliant and promising young doctor, received a
wound while assisting Dr. Koch, Surgeon of the General Hospital.  
In spite of Dr. Koch's skillful medical attention, the young
doctor died on November 17th from the effects of blood poisoning.
Within  less than a month of the death of Dr.Evarts,  Dr. Koch
himself was
similarly infected from the result of a slight scratch sustained in the
course of a post mortem
All the best doctors in the island hurried to his bedside, including
Dr. Pieter, Daniel Anthonisz of Galle, and the Head of the Medical
Department, Dr. Kynsey. But even their combined efforts were of
no avail.
He died within a week of getting the injury  on December 20th,
1877 when he was only 39 years old, two years after his
appointment as Principal 
" His short life was full of good deeds,…, he served the poor with
Special generosity and devotion, and was widely known and love
as their benefactor and friend’.
The grateful fishermen of Mutwal paid a striking tribute to his
memory at his funeral, by spreading white cloth all along the route
from his home to the cemetery gate
His son, Dr. Vincent Koch, was given a medical education in Great
Britain with subscriptions offered by a grateful public.
The following stanzas are from a poem written in his honor on behalf of the Freemasons of India:
Wail, Lanka's sons. We grieve to-day,  For him whom Death has snatched away ;
Whose skill oft bade the tyrant stay , Successfully.
Yet not for him we grieve, for all
Before that awful scythe must fall
The loss is ours ; who heard the call resignedly,
We mourn the heart that soothed our grief;
The kindly hand that brought relief;
The voice, whose music, all too brief, fell soothingly.
We mourn the MAN, whose honest brow,
Still looking skyward, taught us how
To live, to work, to trust, to bow—The end to see.
We miss the skillful master-mind}Who taught us how to serve our kind;
Feet to the lame, eyes to the blind,
Peace to his ashes ! There lies one
Whose useful life, though scarce begun,
Has soared that highest need, " Well done !

More blest than we.
‘Through Dr. J. L. Vanderstraaten's efforts… a clock tower was
erected to his memory in the grounds of the Medical College by
public subscription amounting to Rs 3,000, and Sir James Longden,
the Governor at the time, induced the Legislative Council to donate
the handsome clock at a cost of Rs 5,000.’. 
‘As a centenary effort … a suitably inscribed marble tablet in order
to make the monument better known to the present generation to
whom his high ideals and noble life should serve as a good

The Koch memorial clock tower at Kynsey road.

The memorial slab at the base of the clock tower.

Dr. J L Vanderstraaten Md (St.
Andrews), MRCP Lond., LSA
Lond., LECS, LM Edin.,Fellow of
the Chemical, Medical and
Obstetric Societies, London
succeeded Dr. Koch as Principal in 1877.
He edited the 'Ceylon Medic-Chirurgical
Journal' 1865 - 1867.
Dr.Kynsey – 1875 - 1897
1. The Surgeon-Captain in the Army Medical Department and Principal Medical Officer.
2. Dr. William R. Kynsey, who was to become Sir William later, "persuaded" 15 doctors to meet on February 26, 1887 at the Colonial Medical Library on Maradana Road.
3. He later became the Chief Superintendent of Police and a member of the Legislative Council.

4.  His name adorns a road (Kynsey Road) off which still lies the medical hub of Colombo, the National Hospital, the De Soysa Hospital for Women, the Cardiology Institute and the Medical Faculty.

First female medical students
Ceylon Examiner May 2nd 1892-
“The medical College opens its summer sessions today. Two young ladies Misses Keyt and Davidson – will be admitted as students for the first time in the history of the College’.
Ceylon Administrative Reports 1891 A 15.
‘In anticipation of the admission of female medical students’ the Government authorized ‘a separate Dissecting Room for females and separate tutors and a reading room’
Veronica Weerasekara & Rachel Christoffelsz, were female medicos in later years. Veronica’s reminiscences:-
Dr.Chalmers – Registrar.
Teachers – Dr.S.C. Paul, Dr.Frank Grenier, Dr.Sinnathamby, Dr.Garvin and Dr.H.M. Fernando.
Seniors lined up & whistled.
Pranks – Cutting the afternoon lecture and going by train to the ‘Pagoda’ restaurant. (The 'Pagoda' was still in existence in the 1960s)
Occasional boat ride in the harbor during lecture time - this was in the time of the old jetty opposite the Grand Oriental Hotel.
Teasing and comments by the male medicos:-
'Veronica sweet as the morning air,
  Do not leave me in despair’.

  ‘Rachel Chris dear charming Miss,
  Your lips to kiss it’l be a bliss’

Lady Havelock Hospital - 1911

Dr.Rachel Christofelz and her car in 1924-1926
The above photos are from the book "Dr. Alice de Boer and some pioneer Burgher women doctors' by Deloraine Brohier

Dr.SC Paul Surgeon
Paul was born on 28 February 1868. He was the son of Dr
William Thillayampalam Paul, a physician and leading resident
from Manipay in northern province ofCeylon.
He later passed his First in Arts Examination from Presidency
He then went on to study medicine at Madras Medical
College from where he obtained a first classMB BCh degree. 
Later he went to King's College London from where he obtained
the FRCS qualification in 1901.
He was the first Ceylonese to gain the FRCS qualification.
Dr.Paul returned to Ceylon after obtaining his medical
qualifications in the UK.
He was appointed a lecturer in anatomy in 1902.
In 1905 he became a pathologist
In 1908 he was appointed a surgeon
Dr.Paul's reputation grew and he was appointed senior surgeon at
the General Hospital, Colombo, a position he held until his
Dr.Paul was president of Ceylon Medical Association, president of
the Royal Asiatic Society and chairman of the Ceylon Planters'
Association. He was also a member of the Ceylon Medical
Corps which he commanded between 1923 and 1927 as
Dr.Paul and Justin Kotalawela founded the Ceylon Insurance
Company. He and the De Vos family founded Colonial Motors. 
Paul died in 1942 aged 74.
The Sri Lanka Medical Association has honored Paul by naming
one of its annual orations after him.
Stories about Dr. SC Paul
Dr.Paul would be assisted to his horse's saddle by
'Muthu’ the scyce, at Dr.Paul's mansion at Ward Place. 'Muthu'
would run behind the horse and help Dr.Paul to dismount at the
General Hospital. Dr.Paul would do his operations, ward rounds
and clinics and return home at 2pm. He did not do an evening ward
round as a routine. Dr.Sandrasagara had assumed duties as the
Medical Officer in Charge of the GH Colombo. He came to know
that Dr.Paul was not doing his evening rounds. One morning when
Dr. Paul alighted from his horse and entered the portico of the GH
Colombo. The following conversation took place.
'Dr.Paul, could I have a word with you'.
"As long as it is a word it is alright'
'Is it true that you do not do a regular evening ward round?'
'That is true. If you want you can do my evening ward round'.
With that parting shot Dr.Paul went to do his surgery.
Dr. Sandrasagara appealed to his superiors to take
disciplinary action against Dr.Paul. None of them
wanted to do it and advised Dr.Sandrasagara to be
more careful in dealing with Dr.Paul who was his senior
in years.
His son, Milroy became the Professor of Surgery and the other son
ATS Paul was Thoracic Surgeon at the GH Colombo.

His grand-sons Mr. Rudra Rasaratnam was Thoracic Surgeon at the
NHSL, and Dr.Paul (son of ATS Paul) Surgeon in the
UK. Dr.Paul (son of Prof. Milroy Paul) is a surgeon in Australia.
Dr.Lucian De Zylva
Obstetrician at the GH Colombo.
He gave the inaugural address for the 1960 entrants.
Lived in retirement in Kandy.

Author of ‘Interludes’.
At St. Thomas' he began his brilliant career which in many ways was unique.
1. Obtained the degree of B.Sc, winning the Gold Medal in Physiology, being the only person with First Class Honors. He belonged to a golden age characterized by men who were steeped in the classics and humanities and took to science and medicine.
2. He was a pupil of Schaefer and Starling and established his reputation early in life.
3. Published in the Journal of Physiology articles on "Some Contributions to the Physiology of unstrained muscle" (1901)' and "The composition of Pancreatic Juice” (1904).

4. He also published several learned articles in the Journal of the Ceylon branch of the British Medical Association.

The Minister of Health referred to was Prof. MVP Peiris and the Dean was Prof OER Abheyaratne.
Renovated present‘Tintagel’- House built by Dr. Lucian de Zylva .

Arthurian Myth  Tintagel
In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136), Gorlois Duke of Cornwall puts his wife Igraine in Tintagol while he's at war (posuit eam in oppido Tintagol in littore maris: "he put her in the oppidum Tintagol on the shore of the sea"). Merlin disguised Uther Pendragon as Gorlois so that Uther could enter Tintagol and know Igraine, who thought him her husband. Thus Uther fathered King Arthur on her.
Tintagel is also used as a locus for the Arthurian mythos by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the poem Idylls of the King.
Completed in 1930, 'Tintagel' was intended as a residence for Dr.Lucian De Zylva. In the mid 1940s Dr.De Zylva was given a week to vacate the property by the British Military to house one hundred soldiers. The military occupation saw the house wrecked and De Zylva sold 'Tintagel' to Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike for his son, Solomon West Ridgeway. It is from this time that the house gained recognition as a structure of national importance.
Renamed 'Rosemead Place'
Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike
became the Prime Minister while living in this house.
Residence of Mr.SWRD Bandaranaike the first Prime-Minister from the SLFP in 1956.
Mr.SWRD Bandaranaike was shot by a Buddhist priest in this house.
Became the residence of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike the first female PM.
Became the residence of Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge, President of Sri Lanka.
At present it is called ‘PARADISE ROAD TINTAGEL’ COLOMBO and has 10 air-conditioned guest rooms.
Parts of ‘The Inaugural address’ -1960 – at the KG Hall by Dr.Lucian De Zylva. 
"After two years in St. Antony's Monastery, Kandy,  I came to Colombo, and entered St. Thomas' College on the eve of my fourteenth birthday…My father was very poor, and could not possibly have paid the Royal College fees. I took the line of least resistance and remained where I was." 
 Why should we go up to knowledge when knowledge comes down to us?”This is Newman’s answer:“If we wish to become exact and fully furnished in any branch of knowledge which is diversified and complicated we must consult the living man and listen to the living voice”
“London University was for many years a degree factory. It had no knowledge or control of the lives of the candidates who were fed on cram books and correspondence courses, written with an eye to probable questions with no idea of culture. But after prolonged agitation London had a Teaching University when I entered it, with numerous colleges, hospitals and engineering establishments under its control and musical, literary, debating, philosophical and athletic unions”.
“ I remember Mr.Augustine Birrel in a stirring address at University College declaring that it was not the function of a University to bespatter its students with the letters of the alphabet”.
Dr.Bowden of Manchester in a similar vein declared “A modern University has not only to teach but to learn. When it has imparted the knowledge written in books its work is not done. It has to train the student to explore the unknown and to add to that knowledge” 
“The functions of a university, however, are not limited to the imparting of knowledge, and to training the students to harvest new knowledge. Man doth not live by knowledge alone. The concourse of men and women of different races, and of different social strata, may at first impact, be somewhat unpleasant: but, as time passes, with better knowledge come mutual understanding and tolerance which maybe the prelude to friendship".
 “A university, like a public school, has a tone inspired by the genius loci and inspired by tradition. This tone becomes assimilated by the student to become part of his nature, and he feels it in his marrow that certain things simply are not done. It is an instinctive and inviolable code of conduct, which transforms into gentleman, those who might have become cads”
Dr.Spittell’s introduction to a book authored by Dr. Lucian De Zylva.

Medical students 1905
The above photo is from the book "Dr. Alice de Boer and some pioneer Burgher women doctors' by Deloraine Brohier 
 Graduation –LMS1905.
The above photo is from the book "Christine a memoir' by Christine Spittel Wilson.
Dr. Richard L. Spittel, CMGCBEFRCS. 
Trained for surgery in London – FRCS 1909.
Returning to Ceylon in 1910 he was appointed as Third Surgeon at the General Hospital Colombo
Salary as Surgeon GH Colombo was Rs.750/- a month.
Septicemia following injury to a finger while operating. – nearly died.
Subsequently developed a ‘frozen shoulder’.
Going on to be a senior surgeon and a lecturer at the Ceylon Medical College, he retired in 1935, yet worked as a consultant surgeon.
Retired early at 55 years - 1935.
He was awrded the honour of a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1942 and a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1950 for his services for medicine.
He was life long member of the British Medical Association, he was the president of the Ceylon's Branch from 1940 to 1946.
Gave a lecture to our batch of 1960 entrants in 1961, in the then New Anatomy lecture theater which is no more.
He interacted with the Veddhas and was known by them as 'Sudu Hura' - White chief.
The books he wrote :-Novels
Wild White Boy
Wild Ceylon
Savage Sanctuar
Far-off Things
Where the White Sambhur
Vanished Trails
Brave Island (1966)

Poem collections
Leaves of the Jungle.

Medical books
A Basis of Surgical Ward Work
Framboesia Tropica
Essentials of Surgery
Photo of Wycherly, built in a  swampland, completed in 1922.
Photo of Dr.Spittel with his daughter Christine.
The above photos are from the book "Christine a memoir' by Christine Spittel Wilson.

DR. R.L. Spittel had made one of the
most tangible contributions for the well being of the old and infirm of the community, in
donating the land that houses St. Nikolaas' Home
Dr. Wijerama Physician, GH Colombo.
Physician at the GH Colombo.
Donated his house to the SLMA.
Road named after him while still
Dr.Wijerama’s former residence, now housing the Sri Lanka Medical Association.
Ceylon College of Physicians - 1960.