Pioneer of 'Scientific Tamil'

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Dr. Samuel Fisk Green, who pioneered the translation of Western medical science into Tamil 
Article by S. MUTHAIAH

THE PARAGRAPH on November 29 about the American `Pachaiappan' of Worcester, Mass., brought me a response from a most unexpected quarter. R. Ambihaipahar (Ambi), a well-known Sri Lankan Tamil writer now settled in Australia, sent me from Sydney his biography of Dr. Samuel Fisk Green - and a most revealing document it is. Dr. Green, it appears, not only pioneered hospital medicare in Ceylon but more significantly, pioneered the translation of Western medical science into Tamil. And that appears to be quite a while before the Madras Presidency began looking at rendering Western scientific terms in Tamil.

The American Ceylon Mission, established in Jaffna before it was established in India, sent out to it Dr. John Scudder, grandfather of Ida Scudder of Vellore, if I am not mistaken, as its first medical missionary in 1820. He not only set up a clinic there but also a medical school to train a few Jaffna Tamils in the rudiments of medicine. In 1833, he moved to Madras to establish the ACM here. In 1846, it was John Scudder who interviewed the young Green in Boston and invited him to join the ACM medical facility in Jaffna.

They sailed together and arrived in Madras in September 1847, where John Scudder's son Henry, who was to help found with his brothers the Arcot Mission, showed him around the medical facilities, including the Eye Infirmary, today's Ophthalmic Institute, which had already then become an institution of repute.

A month later, Green was in Jaffna to take over the Mission's medical facility. From 1847 to 1857 and then again from 1862 to 1873, Green transformed the face of medicare in Jaffna and showed the way to the rest of the country.

No sooner did he arrive in Jaffna than Green began learning Tamil, a language he was to later describe as "one of the more refined and polished languages spoken by man".

In 1848, he moved to Manipay, near Jaffna, and established there what is today known as the Green 

Memorial Hospital. The first hospital to be set up in Ceylon, Green started in it simultaneously a formal medical school with three students, who like the others who followed them joined the Government Medical Service when it was set up. In fact, the Government Medical College was established only in 1870; six years earlier, Green had introduced Tamil as the medium of instruction in the Mission's medical school, something that was done in Sinhalese and Tamil only in the last few decades and which has still not been done here to any great degree.

Writing about what Green accomplished till his death in 1884, `Master' Ambi writes: "He learnt the Tamil language and mastered it; he prepared a medical vocabulary in Tamil; he wrote and translated medical books in Tamil; he introduced Tamil as a medium of instruction for Western medicine; he guided his students to translate medical books in Tamil; he edited and published Tamil medical literature comprising over 4,000 pages in all; and he wrote simple booklets in Tamil on medical matters and hygiene to educate the public."

Green started preparing his Tamil Medical Dictionary in 1850. In 1855, the Christian Vernacular Education Study in Madras was seeking Green's help in preparing its books on Anatomy and Physiology in Tamil. Starting with Calvin Cutter's Anatomy, Physiology and Hygiene in 1857, Green and his students went on to translate and publish eight more major medical books before his death.

These included that classic, Gray's Anatomy and Hopper's Physician's Vade Mecum in 1872 and Waring's Pharmacopoeia of India in1884. It is no wonder that on his tombstone in a cemetery in Worcester, his family fulfilled his last wish with the inscription: "Medical Evangelist to the Tamils."


Original Article from: hinduonline


Current state of Manipay hospital

American missionaries in ceylon

Download Open source ebook "Life and letters of Samuel Fisk Green, M. D., of Green Hill"

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