Lives of the fellows

Raman Viswanathan

b.8 October 1899 d.14 July 1982
BA Madras(1926) MD(1931) MRCP(1932) FRCP(1980)

Raman Viswanathan was a leading figure on the Indian medical scene for over half a century. Graduating from the University of Madras in 1926, he obtained his MD in 1931 and MRCP (Lond) in 1932. Returning to India he worked as assistant professor of medicine at the Madras Medical College and later as professor of medicine and therapeutics, Andhra Medical College, Vishakhapatnam. He served in the second world war as colonel in the Indian Medical Service and officer in charge medical division.

After 1945 he was adviser in tuberculosis and subsequently deputy director general of health services to the Government of India. He was founder director of the Vallabhai Patel Chest Institute, University of Delhi, where he worked from 1957 till his retirement in 1969, and continued to work as professor emeritus at the same Institute until his death. He was dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Delhi from 1947 to 1974.

His life long interests were in pulmonary tuberculosis and diseases of the chest. He contributed much new knowledge in both these fields and published over 100 papers in Indian and foreign journals. He also published seven books, including an autobiography. Original papers included those on tropical eosinophilia, oedema of high altitude, acute massive collapse of the lung, bronchiectasis and chronic bronchitis. A new species of Candida was named after him.

He was closely associated with the Tuberculosis Association of India for many years and was a member of all its important committees. He was a founder fellow of the 'National Academy of Medical Sciences. He was the president of the Association of Chest Physicians of India from its foundation until 1981, when it became the National College of Chest Physicians. He was the founder president of the Asthma and Bronchitis Foundation of India. He presided over the 8th National Congress of Diseases of the Chest in 1963, the Conference of the Association of Physicians of India in 1968, the National Tuberculosis Conference in 1968 and the World Congress on Asthma, Bronchitis and Allied conditions in 1974.

Raman Viswanathan was the recipient of many national and international honours. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, and was honorary physician to the President of India. He also received the gold medal of the Tuberculosis Association of India and the Dhanwantri prize of the National Sciences Academy. The Eugino Morelli prize and Forlanini medal of Italy were awarded to him for his work on pulmonary tuberculosis.

Viswanathan distinguished himself as a teacher, and was responsible for the guiding of many a thesis on chest diseases of postgraduate students at the University of Delhi.

He was a legend in his life time. His passion for work made him stay at his desk and laboratory from 9 to 5 every day until a month before his death in spite of two heart attacks. A tall, erect and slim figure, he was easy of approach to young and old alike and the picture of equanimity on all occasions. He was widely travelled in India, Europe and in the United States. He represented a generation that had seen the best of British medicine in India, and was a pioneer in the development of new traditions and educational methods in the post independence era.

S Padmavati

(Volume VII, page 586)

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