chapter  2
16 Pages

Ranald Martin’s Medical Topography (1837)

The emergence of public health in Calcutta
WithPartho Datta

Ranald Martin’s Notes on the Medical Topography of Calcutta published in 1837 was one of the first important surveys done of Calcutta in the nineteenth century. Medical topographies built on the idea that the superior civilizational values of Europe had their roots in temperate climate and geography. Martin’s plea for improvement thus took the novel form of public health and hygiene. Martin’s book was based on his own experiences as a doctor and the diligent survey that he carried out in various parts of Calcutta. Martin’s investigation of the public in the city threw up a much more varied picture. Certainly his schematic division of the city into Indian and European became more complicated. Martin’s prescriptive zeal anticipated later nineteenth-century municipal policy regarding drainage, sewage and drinking water. Martin’s confidence in modern sanitary reform persuaded him that existing settlements in Indian Calcutta were an impediment to public health.