James Robert Wallace (?-1903)

My last blog post looked at the Indian Medical Record, a journal aimed at independent practitioners in British India. It was founded and edited by James Robert Wallace, a Calcutta-based doctor who campaigned vigorously for medical and social reform.

IMR cover

The IMR‘s cover proudly proclaims Wallace’s editorship.

Little is known of Wallace’s early life and training, though his post-nominal letters reveal that he gained an MD from Brussels and that he was a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Society of Apothecaries in London.

It was not until the 1890s – when he launched the Record – that his name began to feature regularly in the medical press. He became known not only for his editorship of the journal but for his involvement in a series of energetic and high-profile campaigns.

Wallace lobbied for a system of medical registration to be introduced in India. In the absence of an official register (as in Britain), he produced The Medical Register and Directory of the Indian Empire from 1892. This ambitious compendium aimed to ‘clear the way for systematic regulation of medical practice in India’. By providing a list of regular or orthodox practitioners, it hoped to afford ‘the scattered members of the profession […] definite knowledge of one another’s existence’.[1] Reviewing the work, the BMJ wrote that it was ‘on the whole very creditable to [the author’s] enterprise and industry’.[2] Wallace brought his proposal for a system of registration to the attention of professional networks in England, including the General Medical Council and the Royal College of Physicians.[3] Though his efforts were usually well-received, medical registration was not introduced into India until 1912, almost a decade after his death.[4]

Wallace also agitated for an Indian Medical Association (IMA), which was established in 1895 along similar lines to the British Medical Association. At its first Annual General Meeting, the IMA stated that it was intended for ‘every section of our profession recognised as “qualified”’,[5] a term designed to compensate for the lack of an official Medical Register. Wallace later became the IMA’s Secretary and the Record became the Association’s mouthpiece.

In both medical and social affairs, Wallace campaigned for the rights of Anglo-Indians. This term typically referred to those of British descent born and raised or long-domiciled in India, and sometimes to those of mixed racial heritage. In 1897, Wallace visited England to agitate for greater rights for this community on behalf of the Anglo-Indian Associations. He spoke to MPs and members of Government at the India Office and War Office. In particular, he highlighted the way in which Anglo-Indians were excluded from imperial appointments and called for them to be treated as British. (Issues that were also covered in the Record.) After a six-month campaigning stint, Wallace’s return was celebrated with a gathering of the local European and Anglo-Indian community at the Bombay Town Hall.[6] The BMJ commended Wallace’s ‘laudable ambition’ and ‘attitude of energy and self-help’.[7] As explored in my previous post, however, while Wallace called for greater recognition for Anglo-Indians and Eurasians, his attitude towards ‘natives’ was vexed and deeply problematic.

Alongside his campaigns, Wallace also pursued his medical practice and recorded his clinical observations. These were often printed in the Record and also circulated via British medical journals.[8]

News of Wallace’s difficult personal life also appeared in the medical press. In 1893, the BMJ reported that his wife had given birth to a son,[9] while in 1896 and 1899, the Lancet noted the births of his daughters.[10] However, less than two months after this second announcement, tragedy had struck. The BMJ reported that Wallace’s ‘much-loved daughters’ – Ruth Elizabeth (aged 9) and Phoebe (aged 3) – had been killed by a landslip during ‘the disastrous cyclone and floods’ in Darjeeling, Bengal.[11] In all these instances, the news was reported in the journals’ ‘Births, Marriages, and Deaths’ columns, which charged a fee for inserting items. One wonders whether it was Wallace himself who sought to share both his personal joys and sorrows with his professional peers in Britain.

Births, Marriages and Deaths

The Lancet reports the deaths of Wallace’s daughters.

It is possible to reconstruct aspects of Wallace’s professional and personal life through a patchwork of sources across the medical press. He seems to have been a tireless and zealous campaigner, much like Thomas Wakeley, editor of the Lancet. Similarly, Wallace’s passionate and sometimes vituperative tone attracted criticism. In 1891, the Lancet printed a letter from Wallace on debates about how best to monitor a patient’s progress under anaesthesia (Wallace favoured checking respiration over the pulse). An editorial note inserted afterwards suggested that a certain portion of Wallace’s letter had been ‘omitted’ since it was ‘couched in language more vigorous than polite’.[12]

Wallace’s close involvement in medical journalism and professional societies, and his active campaigns for medical and social reform show his interest in building networks and promoting opportunities for his fellow Anglo-Indians. When Wallace died in 1903, a large group gathered under the auspices of the Imperial Anglo-Indian Association to celebrate his humble beginnings, his ‘untiring zeal and energy’, and his ‘constant and abiding interest in the welfare of the domiciled Anglo-Indian community’.[13]

[1] ‘Reviews and Notices of Books: Our Library Table’, Lancet, 19 March 1892, p. 64.

[2] ‘Reviews: The Medical Register and Directory of the Indian Empire’, BMJ, 18 February 1899, p. 415.

[3] ‘Royal College of Physicians of London’, Lancet, 6 November 1897, pp. 1212-13 (p. 1212).

[4] It was instituted first in Bengal before being extended to other Presidencies in 1914.

[5] ‘The First Annual General Meeting of the Indian Medical Association’, IMR, 16 January 1895, pp. 52-4 (p. 52).

[6] ‘Medical News: The Anglo-Indian Associations’, Lancet, 6 November 1897, p. 1226.

[7] ‘The Anglo-Indian’, BMJ, 5 March 1898, p. 645.

[8] See, for example, ‘Retention of an Almost Full-Term Placenta for Two Months’, Lancet, 4 July 1891, p. 30.

[9] ‘Births, Marriages, and Deaths’, BMJ, 28 October 1893, p. 978.

[10] ‘Births, Marriages, and Deaths’, Lancet, 1 August 1896, p. 357 and 23 September 1899, p. 868.

[11] ‘Births, Marriages, and Deaths’, Lancet, 21 October 1899, p. 1140.

[12] James R. Wallace, ‘Correspondence: The Use of Chloroform’, Lancet, 13 June 1891, p. 1139.

[13] ‘The Late Dr. James Robert Wallace, M.D., F.R.C.S.’, IMR, 4 November 1903, pp. 1144-6.


The Entomologist (1840-42, 1864-1973)

The Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine was not the only periodical launched in 1864 that catered exclusively to those who collected and studied insects. Unbeknownst to Henry Tibbats Stainton, Thomas Blackburn, and their fellow editors of the Monthly Magazine, others were plotting to fill the gap in the market left by the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer (1856-61). In fact, it was someone very well known to them who would beat them to it, when Edward Newman (1801-1876) commenced the Entomologist in May, a whole month before his unwitting rivals. Newman, the head of a printing company that specialised in natural history publications, was proprietor and editor of the Zoologist (1843-1916). As a friend of Henry Tibbats Stainton (1822-1893), Newman had also printed the Intelligencer, although their relationship had since become less close. According to Newman, many saw him as the man to remedy the lack of an entomological periodical, as he claimed that ‘between the demise of the Intelligencer and the birth of the short-lived Weekly Entomologist I had no less than ninety-seven pressing solicitations to commence an entomological periodical’.

entomologist 2

Title page of the Entomologist‘s second volume

The Entomologist of 1864 was not a new periodical, but a revival of the same journal Newman had originally published from 1840 to 1842. At the end of this first volume, he decided to merge the Entomologist with the Zoologist, a decision that was likely to have been at least partly informed by financial considerations, as unlike his friend Stainton, Newman had no independent wealth with which to fund his periodicals. A specialised magazine such as the Entomologist was not a commercially viable option in the 1840s, while the Zoologist appealed to a wider readership and thereby turned a profit. However, by the 1860s, and in the wake of the Intelligencer‘s success, it seems there was a much more considerable demand for an exclusively entomological periodical. The second volume of the Entomologist therefore commenced in 1864, over twenty years after the end of the first, with this hiatus possibly being the longest lapse of time between consecutively numbered volumes in periodical history.

In terms of contents, the Entomologist was a mix of the shorter notices and observations common to almost all natural history periodicals of the period. Following in the populist spirit of all Newman’s publications, it admitted a wide variety of contributors and was far less exclusive than the Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine. A noteworthy contributor to the magazine during 1877 was Eleanor Anne Ormerod (1828-1901), who published a series of articles on the subject of injurious insects including the turnip weevil and the Colorado beetle. That same year, Ormerod issued the first of her Notes for Observations of Injurious Insects, a questionnaire through which she collated information regarding species that posed a threat to crops, and would go on to be appointed as consulting entomologist to the Royal Agricultural Society in 1882. As the name of the Colorado beetle suggests, it originated in the United States, where it had become a major pest to potatoes. In 1877, reports of its arrival in Europe – aided by unwitting human transportation – raised considerable alarm. As Ormerod noted, beetles had been found in Liverpool, presumably brought by the ships coming to dock there. She gave a brief account of their lifecycle and appearance, and warned ‘at present we have only to do with stragglers; it is of the greatest importance to spread knowledge of their appearance over the country as rapidly as possible, that none of these may escape’.

colorado beetle

Eleanor Ormerod’s article on the Colorado Beetle, given prime position at the start of the issue for September 1877

At Edward Newman’s death in 1876, the Entomologist remained under the ownership of his son, Thomas Prichard Newman. The editorship was given over to John Thomas Carrington (1846-1908), a naturalist and journalist who would later purchase the popular natural history periodical Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip. In 1890, the Entomologist was acquired by the wealthy lepidoperist John Henry Leech (1862-1900). Although Leech did not travel himself, he had amassed a vast number of butterflies from China, Japan, and Korea through the efforts of collectors working on his behalf. Leech intended to use the Entomologist as a medium through which to publish the research upon these specimens, and accordingly appointed the curator of his collection, Richard South (1846-1932), as editor of the periodical. Subsequently, under various different editors and owners, the Entomologist would be published continuously until 1973.

Newman grave

A small woodcut memorialising Edward Newman in the Entomologist following his death in 1876




Women in Medicine Wikithon

Friday 8th June, 2-6pm.

Register here.

Join us for this Women in Medicine Wikithon to recognise pioneering women who deserve a more prominent place in the online historical record. We’ll be exploring the range of ways women were involved in medicine and healthcare, as doctors, surgeons, GPs, nurses and public officials. You’ll find out about fascinating female practitioners from history, then develop your digital skills and learn how to edit Wikipedia in order to harness the power of the web to share your knowledge.

The event will begin with a talk by Dr Anne Hanley, Lecturer in History of Medicine at Birkbeck, University of London. Her current project is charting the provision of sexual-health services in Britain from the end of the Great War to the ‘swinging sixties’. As part of this project, she is exploring the experiences of women doctors who carved out a unique professional territory in the VD Service. Her book, Medicine, Knowledge and Venereal Diseases in England, 1886–1916, is published with Palgrave.

We’ll then do hands-on editing and you’ll leave having helped to improve the gender balance of Wikipedia. Complete beginners and experienced editors are both welcome to attend – we’ll provide training for anyone new to editing. If you’ve spotted an article that needs improving, bring along your queries and we’ll see what we can do to help!

This event is a partnership between Constructing Scientific Communities and the Wellcome Library and is generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Programme and Registration for Workshop: Self-Fashioning Scientific Identities in the Long Nineteenth Century

University of Leicester, 15th June 2018, Charles Wilson Building 408


Keynote: Dr Patricia Fara, University of Cambridge

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was no such thing as a scientist. While professional careers in science were gradually formalised, many scientific practitioners aspired to none at all. Lacking blueprints to guide their behaviour, practitioners of all descriptions had to carve out their own identities to demonstrate expertise, prestige, taste, authority.

Scholars of nineteenth-century science and culture have revealed diverse scientific identities, including romantic geologists, chemical-wielding showmen, and poetic physicists, alongside artisan botanists, unpaid draughtswomen, and husband-and-wife collaborations. Recent scholarship complicates rigid distinctions between amateur and professional, populariser and primary researcher, and scientific writing and imaginative prose, producing increasingly nuanced studies of the ways in which scientific practitioners sought to shape their own identities.

Stephen Greenblatt’s now-classic study of ‘self-fashioning’ demonstrated how one might carve out for oneself ‘a distinctive personality, a characteristic address to the world, a consistent mode of perceiving and behaving’. The speakers at this one-day workshop will examine how complex changes in scientific culture can be considered through the lens of self-fashioning. Their papers cover an array of topics that include discussions of disciplinarity, life writing, authority, and the popularisation of science.

Please see the programme below. Those interested in attending should email sciself2018@gmail.com with any dietary or access requirements. The workshop is free and the deadline for registration is May 23rd.

Funding for this day has been provided by the generous support of the Constructing Scientific Communities project.

SelfSci Full Programme_Page_1SelfSci Full Programme_Page_2

Indian Medical Record (1890-1903; revived thereafter)

My last blog post profiled the Indian Medical Gazette, a long-running journal affiliated with the Indian Medical Service (IMS). This week I’m looking at one of its major rivals, the Indian Medical Record, which proudly proclaimed its independence from the imperial administration.

IMR cover

The cover of the first volume of the Record (1890).

Like the Gazette, the Record was produced in Calcutta and replicated the format of successful journals such as the Lancet and British Medical Journal. It contained a similar mix of editorials, clinical observations, news items, and correspondence. It began as a monthly, later moving to fortnightly and then weekly publication. While the Gazette had a direct succession of editors, the Record was initially the brainchild of its founder and editor, James R. Wallace, a medical practitioner whom I’ll explore in a future blog post.

Upon its launch, the Record acknowledged the challenges of the periodical marketplace in British India. Its opening editorial noted that many medical journals ‘have come into existence, have served a useful purpose, and become extinct’. It identified the Gazette as one title which had ‘braved the storm’, before claiming that it intended to fulfil a different role.[1]

Wallace suggested that there was an opening in the market for his new journal since, ‘[w]hether rightly or wrongly, [the Gazette] is viewed by the large and ever-increasing body of independent physicians as an officially subsidised organ, almost exclusively devoted to the sectarian interests of the official classes’. While crediting the Gazette as an ‘able expositor of medical truths’, Wallace argued that the ‘conception of its official character’ had ‘hedg[ed] and handicapp[ed] its popular acceptance and its extended influence for the good of the profession and the public’.[2] The Record suggested that the Gazette’s reputation as the organ of the IMS had curtailed its impact.

First page

The first issue of the Record announces its objectives.

Wallace questioned the Gazette’s ability to represent the whole profession and fashioned the Record as an alternative, one aimed at ‘independent’ or ‘private’ practitioners, ‘the general body of practising physicians’.[3] In British India, terms such as ‘non-official’ or ‘independent’ were used to distinguish those who were not employed by the IMS or Army Medical Corps. The Record called for greater recognition for these private practitioners. Like other commentators, it alleged that the IMS’s monopoly on civil appointments restricted opportunities for independent medical men. Wallace also agitated for the establishment of an Indian Medical Association, and after its inception in 1895, the Record came to be regarded as its official publication.

Over the 1890s, the Record’s attacks on the Gazette became increasingly incendiary and politicised. An article entitled ‘A Bid for Popularity’ (1893) claimed that the rival journal was in receipt of the ‘misapplied support of a subsidising Government’. Wallace called for ‘honest and manly competition’ in the periodical marketplace.[4] He suggested that he had made enquiries to the Government and Provincial Government to determine the level of support the Gazette received, but that he was met with evasions.[5] He presented his attempts to expose the subsidy as a professional and public duty. This hostility towards the Gazette stemmed partly from resentment towards the comparatively high status enjoyed by IMS practitioners and partly from fears about the supposedly stagnant condition of periodical culture in India.

Wallace suggested that the Government’s support for the Gazette resulted in ‘crooked policies’ which helped perpetuate ‘monopolies that crush out every effort at honest, independent enterprise’. He denied that state support was needed to sustain medical journalism in India. He insisted that, through his own ‘private proprietary’, he had ‘placed within the reach of the local profession, a cheap and thoroughly approved fortnightly medical journal, serving all and more than the purposes of [the Gazette]’.[6] Wallace championed a free market, suggesting that the profession should be able to support its own active, independent, and commercially viable medical press.

Despite these attacks on its rival, the Record generally called for greater cooperation between medical practitioners in India. It claimed that its aim was to ‘establish a feeling of brotherhood, such as has been never known to exist in India’.[7] Its cover page shows that the editorial team comprised a range of practitioners, including those with ‘official’ titles. Further, its list of contributors indicates that it attracted a mixed readership. It received contributions not only from independent practitioners, but also those in the IMS, the Civil Medical Service, the Army Medical Corps, and the Subordinate Medical Service (SMS), which was comprised of native medical men. The Record explicitly called for contributions from men and women, and those of Indian descent.[8]

The journal even established different subscription rates to attract a diverse readership. Initially, the annual subscription cost was halved for medical missionaries, assistant surgeons, and army apothecaries. In 1895, the fee for army medical officers, civil and non-official surgeons and physicians was 18 rupees, medical missionaries and assistant surgeons paid half this price, and hospital assistants just six rupees.[9] Nevertheless, the Record apparently struggled to attract subscribers from among the SMS. In 1900, it warned that the current subscription list could not cover the cost of publication. It accused Military Assistant Surgeons of distributing the journal among themselves rather than subscribing individually. The Record suggested that this was neither ‘fair’ nor ‘patriotic’, and it called on readers who had been ‘remiss in their duty’ to turn over ‘a new leaf’.[10] This tactic exploited native readers’ anxieties, suggesting that they had erred in their patriotic duty and neglected professional etiquette.

Like the Gazette, the Record demonstrated conflicting attitudes towards race and its native readership. It often deployed crude and unashamed imperialist rhetoric and stereotypes. In 1890, it remarked that ‘[t]he turbulent, suspicious, caste-ridden Hindu or Mahommedan is now the able and willing colleague […] of the western surgeon whose predecessors taught him the science and art of western medicine’.[11] The Record celebrated the contributions of native medical men while querying how far they should participate in colonial practice. An 1896 article argued that European patients should have access to European medical attendance. It described how British troops had long been ‘doctored entirely by men of their own race’ for ‘socio-political reasons’ and claimed that non-military personnel should be entitled to similar treatment: ‘European officials naturally expect medical attendance from members of their own race’.[12]

At the same time, the Record accused the imperial administration of racism. In an article on ‘The Anglo-Indian Problem’, Wallace indicted the inaccessibility of the upper echelons of colonial medicine as ‘the progeny of official prejudice’.[13] He suggested that Anglo-Indian and Eurasian men (i.e. those born to British parents who were domiciled in India or those who were mixed-race) were disadvantaged since many were unable to travel to London for the qualifying exams. A 1901 editorial claimed that ‘in no branch of the public service in India’ – for which ‘long and laborious study and practical training’ were required – were ‘the children of the soil […] worse treated than in the medical’. It alleged that the IMS contained ‘a good proportion of men who are distinctly below the average’.[14] Wallace implied that many medical men who practised independently did so because they did not have the means to join the IMS.

The Record provides a fascinating insight into colonial medical rivalries and the interaction between professional and ethnic identities in late nineteenth-century India. Yet it has received little attention from scholars, who typically concentrate on the Gazette. This is perhaps due to the fact that the Record is less widely available (with incomplete runs in the British Library, Wellcome Library and the Royal College of Surgeons). It was also comparatively short-lived, initially folding with the death of Wallace in 1903. The Wellcome’s bound volume for that year contains a note which announces that Wallace’s executors had found it ‘necessary’ to cease publication of the Record. Yet the journal was periodically revived thereafter. Indeed, editions appeared later that year – while earlier issues bore Wallace’s name, these later versions referred only to an anonymous ‘Editor’.


A note in the Wellcome Library’s bound volume for 1903 announces the cessation of the Record.

In 1930 the BMJ celebrated the Record reaching its ‘Jubilee’ issue, which was published under the auspices of the then-editor, S.K. Mukherji. The BMJ acknowledged the journal’s ‘chequered history’ over the previous 50 years, while commending its past campaigns against epidemic disease.[15] Significantly, a journal which began primarily as a one-man project had been resurrected, thus giving a new generation of medical writers and readers a voice. This versatility was arguably key to its survival in a struggling periodical marketplace.

[1] ‘Ourselves’, IMR, 1 January 1890, pp. 1-2 (p.1).

[2] ‘Ourselves’, p. 1.

[3] ‘Ourselves’, p. 1.

[4] ‘A Bid for Popularity’, IMR, 16 October 1893, p. 261.

[5] ‘Government Support to Indian Medical Journals’, IMR, 1 November 1893, pp. 284-7 (p. 287).

[6] ‘Government Support to Indian Medical Journals’, p. 284.

[7] ‘Ourselves’, pp. 1-2.

[8] ‘Clinical Reports in India’, IMR, 16 October 1897, p. 292.

[9] ‘Business Notices’, IMR, 1 January 1895, p. li.

[10]  ‘Comments and News: The “Indian Medical Record” is Ten Years Old’, IMR, 3 January 1900, p. 18.

[11] ‘The Indian Medical Service’, IMR, 1 February 1890, pp. 11-12.

[12] ‘European Interests in the Medical Reform Question in India’, IMR, 16 January 1896, pp. 44-5.

[13] James R. Wallace, ‘Correspondence: The Anglo-Indian Problem’, IMR, 13 June 1900, pp. 585-6 (p. 585).

[14] ‘Comments and News: Indians and the IMS’, IMR, 12 June 1901, pp. 638-9.

[15] ‘India: Jubilee of the “Indian Medical Record”’, BMJ, 26 July 1930, pp. 158-9.