Saturday, 13 August 2016

Contextualising the Contribution

This is an example of how archives assist historians

That Dr LM Sanghvi was interested in sharing his knowledge through teaching and publication of his research was widely known and recognised. And there was enough evidence of this in the familys archives that had many of his published papers. But the historian in me wanted to contextualise his contribution to Indian medical research.

He began to publish research papers as early as in 1950. The first six of his research papers were published in Indian journals and because his specialisation at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine dealt with tropical diseases – typhoid, allergies and gastroenteritis.

After he returned from his training in the US for chest and heart diseases (cardiology was subsumed under that specialisation until then), Dr Sanghvi began to send his research papers for publication in medical journals published from the US. In 1956, the first of his papers was published in an international journal – the American Heart Journal (AHJ, 52: 908, 1956). In that year and the next, his papers were also published in Circulation and AMA Arch NeurPsych and AMA Arch Path – these latter journals were brought out by the American Medical Association.

Since the scenario for Indians to undertake research, as well publish it in international journals was very different from what prevails now, as a biographer, I wanted to find out how many Indians’ research had been published by AHJ before Dr Sanghvi’s in 1956. Unfortunately, I could not get any information from AHJ, despite repeated email requests.

In 1958, Dr Sanghvi published the first of many papers in the British Heart Journal (BHJ) My experience with BHJ about getting information on their earliest Indian contributors was different; and it brought out, once again, how much of a help archives are to historians. Though I did not receive any reply to my emails to them on the subject, the availability of online archives of BHJ enabled me to compile the information.

BHJ is the official journal of the British Cardiac Society and has been published since 1939. It has an online archive of all issues since inception. The page lists all the issues, by year. And when you click on the year, you can view the content pages of all the issues for that year. That online archive enabled me search the contents pages and find out how many Indians had published their papers in the journal before Dr Sanghvi.

The first Indian to have a paper published in the Journal was Dr JB Mehta but he was with the Lambeth Hospital in London. The two Indian doctors who preceded Dr Sanghvi in the publication of their research/case studies in the BHJ were: Dr Rustom Jal Vakil (of KEM Hospital, Bombay) in 1949 and Dr AN Sengupta (of Nilratan Sircar Medical College, Calcutta) in 1954. Both these institutions had a history of nearly half a century; SMS Medical College (Jaipur) was not even a decade old in 1958 when Dr Sanghvi’s paper was published in BHJ.

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