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Kadambini Ganguly

Indian physician

Kadambini Ganguly
Kadambini Basu

18 July 1861 (1861-07-18)
Died3 October 1924(1924-10-03) (aged 63)
(m. 1883; died 1898)

Kadambini Ganguly (Bengali: কাদম্বিনী গাঙ্গুলি; 18 July 1861 – 3 October 1924)[1] was one of the first Indian female doctors who practised with a degree in modern medicine. She was the first Indian woman to practice medicine in India. Ganguly was the first woman to gain admission to Calcutta Medical College in 1884, subsequently trained in Scotland, and established a successful medical practice in India.

Early life

Ganguly was born Kadambini Basu daughter of Brahmo reformer Braja Kishore Basu, she was born on 18 July 1861[2] at Bhagalpur, Bengal Presidency (modern day Bihar) in British India, raised in Barisal. The family was from Chandsi, in Barisal which is now in Bangladesh. Her father was headmaster of Bhagalpur School. He and Abhay Charan Mallick started the movement for women's emancipation at Bhagalpur, establishing the women's organisation Bhagalpur Mahila Samiti in 1863, the first in India.

Despite coming from an upper caste Bengali community that did not support women's education,[3] Kadambini initially received English education at the Brahmo Eden Female School ,Dacca; subsequently at Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya, Ballygunj Calcutta which was renamed as Banga Mahila Vidyalaya in 1876. The school merged with Bethune School (established by Bethune) in 1878 and she became the first woman to pass the University of Calcutta entrance examination.She passed the FA exam in 1880. It was partly in recognition of her efforts that Bethune College first introduced FA (First Arts), and then graduation courses in 1883. She and Chandramukhi Basu became the first graduates from Bethune College, and also the first female graduates in the country.[4][5]

Professional life

Long before graduating school, Kadambini had decided to go to the clinical school. Madras Medical College had begun admitting female undergraduates in 1875, while the Calcutta Medical College (CMC) didn’t permit any females to enter. Ganguly and her husband, Dwarkanath Ganguly, volunteered to change this standard. Kadambini became the first woman to attempt gaining admission in the CMC in 1884. She even acquired a cooperation of Rs. 20 per month from the public authority.[6]

Ganguly joined the medical college on 23 June 1883 despite strong criticism from the society opposing women liberation. She received a scholarship of Rs. 15 for two years.[7] In 1886, she was awarded GBMC and became the first practising woman physician with a degree in modern medicine in the whole of South Asia. This attracted the attention of Florence Nightingale, who in 1888 wrote to a friend asking for more information about Ganguly.[3]

The possibility of a female turning into a specialist was not invited by the customary society; indeed, even some teachers at the CMC were not content with the incorporation of ladies, to such an extent that one teacher did not allow Ganguly to pass one of her subjects. As a consequence, rather than a MB degree, Ganguly was granted the Graduate of Medical College of Bengal (GMCB) degree in 1886.

The same year, Ganguly was selected to Lady Dufferin Women’s Hospital in Calcutta. There, she felt that she was being looked down upon on by the individual specialists, as she did not have an MB degree. She understood that she required more capabilities to gain the respect of her companions. In 1893, she travelled to Edinburgh, where she studied at the Edinburgh College of Medicine for Women. Since she already possessed several prior qualifications, Ganguly was able to obtain a 'triple diploma' in a short time,[8] being licensed as LRCP (Edinburgh), LRCS (Glasgow) and GFPS (Dublin).[9][10] On her return to India, she was elevated to the position of senior specialist, and began a successful private practice. She visited Nepal in 1895 to successfully treat the mother of the reigning Nepalese monarch, Dev Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana.[8][11]

Ganguly was an active campaigner for social change in India. She was one of six female delegates to the fifth session of the Indian National Congress in 1889, and organised the 1906 Women's Conference in Calcutta after the Partition of Bengal. Ganguly was also successful in pressuring Calcutta Medical College to allow more women as students.[8]

Personal life

Residence of Kadambini Ganguly

Kadambini Ganguly married Dwarakanath Ganguly on 12 June 1883, 11 days before joining Calcutta Medical College.[12] As the mother of eight children, she had to devote considerable time to her household affairs. She was deft in needlework.[8] Among her children, Jyotirmayee was a freedom fighter and Prabhat Chandra was a journalist.

American historian David Kopf[13] notes that Ganguly "was appropriately enough the most accomplished and liberated Brahmo woman of her time", and her relationship with her husband Dwarkanath Ganguly "was most unusual in being founded on mutual love, sensitivity and intelligence." Kopf argues that Ganguly was highly unusual even among emancipated women of contemporary Bengali society, and that "her ability to rise above circumstances and to realize her potential as a human being made her a prize attraction to Sadharan Brahmos dedicated ideologically to the liberation of Bengal's women."[14]

Ganguly died on October 3, 1923, after having conducted an operation the same day.[8]

Criticism from conservatives quarters

She was heavily criticised by conservative society of her time. After returning to India from Edinbugh and campaigning for women's rights, she was indirectly called a 'whore' in the Bengali magazine Bangabashi. Her husband Dwarkanath Ganguly took the case to court and won, with a jail sentence of 6 months meted out to the editor Mahesh Pal.[10][15]

In popular culture

A Bengali television serial Prothoma Kadambini based on her biography is currently being telecast on Star Jalsha since March 2020 starring Solanki Roy and Honey Bafna in the lead and is also available on Hotstar.[16] Another Bengali series named Kadambini, starring Ushasi Ray as Ganguly, was telecast on Zee Bangla in 2020.

Despite practicing medicine far longer than Anandibai Joshi, who only practiced for around three months before she died of tuberculosis, Ganguly is not widely known outside India.

On 18 July 2021, Google celebrated Ganguly's 160th birth anniversary with a doodle on its homepage in India.[17][18]



  1. ^ Sen, B.K. (September 2014). "Kadambini Ganguly - An Illustrious Lady" (PDF). Science and Culture - Indian Science News Organization.
  2. ^ Karlekar, Malavika (2012). "Anatomy of a Change: Early Women Doctors". India International Centre Quarterly. 39 (3/4): 95–106. JSTOR 24394278.
  3. ^ a b "Kadambini Ganguly – UncoverED". Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  4. ^ Female students were admitted into Oxford University in 1879, one year after the admission of female students for undergraduate studies at the University of Calcutta "Women at Oxford". Archived from the original on 18 October 2006. Retrieved 5 November 2006.. The tripos was opened to women at Cambridge only in 1881 [1].
  5. ^ "A Convocation for the conferring of Degrees". The Times of India. 15 March 1883. p. 9. Among the recipients of the B.A. degrees were two young ladies of the Bethune Female School, Miss Chandramukhi Basu and Miss Kadambini Basu, who were loudly cheered. The Vice-Chancellor [of Calcutta University] (the Hon. H. J. Reynolds) presided.
  6. ^ "Kadambini Ganguly : कदंबिनी गांगुली कोण होत्या? : पाश्चात्य औषधाचा सराव करणारे पहिले महिला डॉक्टर". The GNP Marathi Times (in Marathi). 17 July 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  7. ^ "A native lady collegian". Homeward Mail. 10 March 1879.
  8. ^ a b c d e Chakrabarty, Roshni. "Kadambini Ganguly, India's first female doctor who made Calcutta Medical College start admitting women". India Today. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Kadambini Ganguly : First Female Doctor to Practice Western Medicine". The GNP Times. 17 July 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b "The Life and Work of Dr Kadambini Ganguly, the First Modern Indian Woman Physician". Retrieved 5 April 2007.
  11. ^ "A lady doctor in orthodox Nepal". Englishman's Overland Mail. 27 November 1895.
  12. ^ Star Jalsha, Prothoma Kadambini
  13. ^ "David Kopf". History at Minnesota. Regents of the University of Minnesota. Archived from the original on 16 May 2006. Retrieved 5 November 2006.
  14. ^ Kopf, David (1979). The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind. Princeton University Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-691-03125-5.
  15. ^ "Dwarakanath Ganguly – A Forgotten Hero – The Indian Messenger Online". Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  16. ^ "Prothoma Kadombini to launch on March 16". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  17. ^ "Kadambini Ganguly, India's First Female Doctor, Honoured by Google Doodle". News18. 18 July 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Kadambini Ganguly's 160th Birthday". Google. Retrieved 18 July 2021.