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ARTICLES
Year : 1979  |  Volume : 27  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 53-54

Moorcroft: The first modern eye-surgeon in Punjab


Department of Ophthalmology, Medical College, Amritsar, India

Correspondence Address:
Daljit Singh
Department of Ophthalmology, Medical College, Amritsar
India
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How to cite this article:
Singh D. Moorcroft: The first modern eye-surgeon in Punjab. Indian J Ophthalmol 1979;27:53-4

How to cite this URL:
Singh D. Moorcroft: The first modern eye-surgeon in Punjab. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 1979 [cited 2020 May 28];27:53-4. Available from: http://www.ijo.in/text.asp?1979/27/1/53/31550

William Moorcroft a native of Lancashire was educated at Liverpool to be a surgeon. Upon the completion of the usual course of study, however, his attention was diverted to a formidable epidemic disease amongst the horned cattle. The eminent surgeon John Hunter gave him the blessings to pursue this course. Moorcroft settled in London as a very prosperous doctor for some years. He speedily realised a handsome property. A great portion of this, however, was lost in some injudicious project of manufacturing cast-iron horse-shoes. He, therefore readily accepted an offer from East India Company to go out to Bengal, as superintendent of the military stud. He left England in 1808.

He believed that the breed of the native cavalary horse could be improved by the Turk­man steed. He also had in mind the possibility of establishing commerce with Trans-Himala­yan districts. Supported by many companies and the government, he set off on his Journey at the end of 1819, to realize his dreams. He travelled in the Himalayan provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab; in Ladakh and Kashmir; in Peshawar, Kabul and Kunduz and finally Bukhara, as the first European to find out the secrets of these forbidden lands. When lie reached Turkistan, the friendly chief, Ali Khan, who invited him was no more, Murad Beg, a robber and a barbarian, succeded him. Inspite of many difficulties, he managed to purchase a number of valuable horses with which he proposed to return to Hindustan. On his way back he crossed Oxus river on 5th August 1825. The circrmstances of his death are not known. One of his faithful servants brought all his papers and some of his horses to Kabul and thence to India.

Moorcroft reached Hoshiarpur (Punjab) on 4th March 1820, where he stayed till 20th April. Punjab was then ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. A description of Hoshiarpur and Moorcroft's activities during his brief stay is contained in the following two paragraphs:
"Hoshyarpur is a large and populous town, surrounded by a brickwall, separated from another town Behadarpur, by a few fields only; the latter, however is nearly uninhabited. The population of Hoshyarpur consists chiefly of weavers, dyers, confectioners, grainsellers and turners in wood. The weavers are almost all Mohammedans, and are orderly and in­dustrious set of people. They are employed extensively in the manufacture of cotton cloth and muslins, which are sent to distant markets in various directions; as white clothes to Delhi; White and red to Jaypur and Bikaner; coarse cotton to Punjab and Kabul, and the finer sorts to Herat, Balkh Bokhara and Yarkand.

The water of Hoshiarpur is said to be of great efficacy in whitening clothes. The cotton is raised abundantly at the foot of the neighbouring mountains, and commonly sells at from 16 to 20 seers for one Me hmud­shahi rupee."
"Upon my first arrival at Hoshyarpur I pitched my tent under some tamarind-trees in a Mohammedan burying ground, but the Thannadar Dilbagh Singh, insisted upon my removing to a house in the town which was used as a hospice for Hindu mendicants. It was situated on the edge of a dry, sandy watercourse, which was a receptacle for filth, and the stench was exceedingly offensive. I remonstrated against the change, but in vain, and was obliged to take up my residence on a terrace of this mansion, over which I raised a small tent. The heat during the day was intense, but the night was commonly refreshed by a thunder-storm. I preserved my health, however, by rigid abstemiousness, abstaining wholly from animal food, and allowing myself a dinner once only in three days; on the others I lived upon breakfast, sherbet and tea. During the whole of my stay I devoted a considerable portion of my time to surgical practice, and was in no want of patients. The prevailing complaints were affections of the eyes, and I operated upon forty cases of cataract with very fair success. The operation is not unknown to the native practitioners, and many of the barber-surgeons here are in the habit of couching. Their instruments are, however, clumsy, and their process crude, and success is very disproportionate to failure.

I prevailed upon one of them to assist me in my cases, and left him conversant with the Euorpean method, and provided with a set of our instruments."

Moorcroft's character as a traveller will be best elicited from the perusal of his journals. In many respects he was most eminently qualified, and was not to be surpassed in determination, hardihood, endurance and spirit of enterprise. His scientific attainments were strictly professional, and he neither had the preparatory training, nor the means to in­vestigate profoundly the mysteries of nature. Neither was he an oriental scholar or an antiquarian, although he made practical use of some of the dialects of the East, and took a ready interest in the remains of antiquity which he encountered. His chief objects were on all occasions rural economy and manu­facture, as he entertained a notion that much was to be learned in both from the natives of the East, as well as to be communicated to them. He was much impressed with the cap­abilities of the countries he visited, and the advantages to be derived from the cultivation of their products. It was his serious intention to settle down upon his return, in the lower ranges of the Himalayas, and devote the rest of his life to the occupations of a farmer. Unfortunately that was not to be so[1].

 
  References Top

1.
Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab; in Ladakh and Kashmir; in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz and Bokhara, by William Moorcroft and George Trebeck (1819-1825) published in 1837.  Back to cited text no. 1
    




 

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