Lives of the fellows

Pandipeddi Kutumbiah

b.22 November 1892 d.7 February 1976
BA Madras(1913) MB BS(1918) MRCP(1930) MD(1931) FRCP(1958)

Pandipeddi Kutumbiah was the son of Pandipeddi Adinarayaniah, a lawyer, and Janikamma, the daughter of a munsiff. He was born in Kanigiri in Nellore Dt, Andhra Pradesh. After graduating from Madras Christian College, he had his medical training in Madras Medical College. On qualifying in 1918, he joined the Indian Medical Service, serving during the next five years in East Persia, Russian Turkistan, Mesopotamia, Kurdistan, and the NW Frontier Province. He was demobilized in 1923 and joined the Madras Medical Service. During the next fifteen years he held successive lecturer appointments in medical subjects in both Andhra and Madras medical colleges. In 1938 he became professor of medicine in Andhra Medical College, Vizaghapatnam, and in 1945 professor of medicine and principal in Stanley Medical College, Madras. On retirement from government service in 1948 he became professor of medicine at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. Between 1950 and 1956 he was also principal of the College, and during 1956 to 1957 he acted as its director.

His interests in academic medicine were characterized by their breadth rather than originality. Acute rheumatism in childhood and adolescence was the subject of a number of papers and lectures, but his particular and continuing interest was the ancient systems of medicine, both Indian and of other countries. A number of short papers on ancient Hindu anatomy, physiology and medical theories were followed later in his life by larger works of considerable scholarship: Ancient Indian medicine (1962, revised 1969) and Studies in Indian medicine (1976). In 1947 he shared in the foundation of a society for the study of the history of medicine, now known as the Indian Association for the History of Medicine, of which he was at one time the president.

He was honorary physician to the viceroys of India, Lord Wavell and Lord Mountbatten. Between 1944 and 1956 he served on the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Kutumbiah was born into an influential Brahmin family. His life and character were profoundly influenced by his father’s conversion to Christianity. The whole family, parents, five sons and four daughters, were baptized in 1901 when Kutumbiah was nine years old. This led to his attending a Christian school and college. At the latter, the guidance of a distinguished principal reinforced the formative example of his father and contributed to the integrity and almost ascetic simplicity which marked his whole life. He was a fluent and entertaining lecturer, and this with his natural and unassuming friendliness made him a popular teacher. He was a keen sportsman, with a particular enthusiasm for tennis. While on study leave in England, the day of his membership examination coincided with the Wimbledon finals. He unhesitatingly opted for Wimbledon, arguing that membership could be tackled in three months time but for Wimbledon he would have to wait a year. He continued to play tennis with students almost up to retirement, and understandably was held by successive generations in great affection.

He never married. His life in retirement was lonely but happy while filled with reading on ancient medicine. During his last years his sight failed, but this final burden he bore with his customary patience and fortitude.

JKG Webb

(Volume VII, page 330)

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