Pioneer’s Plight: Dr Subhash Mukherjee

Found this article about the Late Dr Subhash Mukherjee, who was the pioneer of In Vitro Fertilization in India in the late 1970s, but was apparently shut down by the medical and political communities.

It is an unbelievable read in terms of how pathetic a situation can get.

Dr Subhash Mukherjee, according to the article, was the pioneer of the IVF procedure in India. (The article has a quote implying that his was the first IVF in the world, but this Wikipedia link tells me the first IVF child was born a few months before Dr Mukherjee’s procedure succeeded. Even in that case, though, he remains one of the pioneers who got the procedure going in the first place.)

However, two things went against him: his own medical fraternity, who did not believe that what he did was possible (that by itself tells a story, no? A group of scientists do not “believe” that something can or cannot be done, without caring to actually verify the procedure.), and his own state (West Bengal) government, who sought for some reason to stifle him and his efforts. He was not allowed to present his work outside of India, and was essentially ostracized from his own circles.

The weirdest part was that when the WB government put in a team to find whether his efforts were genuine, the team was headed by – a radiophysicist. (Does that mean that no one else came closer to understanding his work, or that the government simply didn’t care? Either of those cases is very wrong.)

The kicker of course was what followed. The Health Minister said he was stifled keeping in mind “public interest”; he was then transferred to the Opthalmology department – resulting of course in all his experiments coming to a screeching halt.

Well, this incident is a sorry affair by any measure, and I wonder if it would have been handled differently outside of West Bengal. We as a state, and as a state government, have this wonderful ability to kill insightful ideas and pioneering efforts.

I guess it’s one more instance of the question of how an equal society can be achieved (well, that’s what both Socialism and Communism seek, is it not?). You can either pull up the people who are below the average, and thus make everyone equal, and better, or you can push down the people who are above the average, and just make everyone equal – and feed the egos of those that are at or below the average. Which do you think the West Bengal government usually chooses to do?

I know, technically it could have happened anywhere, and yet – I wonder.

Now the West Bengal government wants to make amends – by wanting to start an institute for research on reproduction and stem cells in his name.

And they have been sitting on that project for four years now.

P.S.: The man who’s credited with starting IVF in India, Dr TC Anand Kumar, himself says after going through Dr Mukherjee’s papers that the honor should have gone to Dr Mukherjee.

7 thoughts on “Pioneer’s Plight: Dr Subhash Mukherjee

  1. I remember reading an article about him, and an interview of India’s first test tube baby (She must be around 30 now i guess).
    Tragic that it went without recognition.

  2. That was very unfortunate of him. Even just a recognition of his work was not given to him.

    IVF in India is one of the most popular destinations in medical tourism today. Its been giving hope and happiness to couples who seek for a possibility of conceiving their own children.

  3. This is an example how discoverers of truth are tormented during their lifetime and recognised by the world after their death. Copernicus, Galileo, Robert H. Goddard, etc are to name a few. I was lucky to have this saint-like man as my teacher of Physiology in R G Kar Medical College, Kolkata in 1980. A man with childish simplicity, he was unfit for the society of self-centered fools where he unfortunately belonged. This should also be a lesson to the humbugs of Bengal, who claim themselves as omniscient and ridicule others only in order to conceal their own ignorance.

  4. It is a sorry state of affair, that even now we (the government or the concerned authorities) do not recognise the achievements made by the various individuals/groups in different fields, but are good in dragging the feet and laugh at them.
    Sriharsha R. Londhe, Advocate, Bengaluru.

  5. India can’t honour its own gems.Several freedom fighters gone unnoticed,also the real inventer of radio A.J.C.Bose.Hope the current govt. of WB will explore the truth & Govt. of India will give official identity to Dr. Subhash Mukherjee,but when don’t know.
    Today India’s slogan is-
    ‘Bhrastachar hi sistachar hai’.

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