Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXIX No. 3, May 16-31, 2019

‘Cappy’ – Instrumental in developing radiology in India

by Manmadhan Ullathil (from Maddy’s Ramblings)

(Continued from April 16th Issue)

H. Miller explains in his obituary of Capt Barnard – There was nothing like the Institute of Radiology in India or in South East Asia, and not much like it in the USA or Great Britain at that time. It was a two storey building around a courtyard where playing fountains formed part of the air-conditioning plant of the X-ray diagnostic department. Its therapy unit housed a 400 kV apparatus, three 200 kV units, two superficial and two contact sets. It had a radium department including a radon plant for supplying radon for up-country hospitals. It had a physics department and laboratory, a physiotherapy department and a clinical photography unit. With its protected walls of locally made brick loaded with barium it had a layout so far in advance of its time that for a generation it remained the outstanding radiological center of South East Asia. The equipment has been kept up up-to-date by adding new units such as the Convergent Beam, Pendulum and another type of Moving Beam Therapy apparatus – long before important centers in England received such Units.

Captain Barnard ‘Cappy’ remained with the Institute until he left India in 1940 and under his guidance a number of courses for the Diploma of Medical Radiology and for Certified Radiological Assistants were instituted with him serving as the President of the Board of Examiners for both Diplomas. Though he had no basic medical qualifications, he was instrumental in initiating several research programs, in collaboration with medical colleagues, such as estimating the age with radio-graphic examination and the study of endemic fluorosis poisoning.
Captain Barnard had varied interests, he was associated with the Madras Boy Scouts Association and was a keen collector of art objects. But of course, his case files present the more interesting insight to his life and times. As an invention which could see though body tissues, it found instant acceptance with the London police who with Barnard’s help collared a thief who had swallowed gold sovereigns, he later used the same method to catch a Madras thief who had snatched a girl’s chain and swallowed it. Other instances involved the seizing of stolen jewels secreted inside cheek cavities of a woman member of a gang of robbers, a few involving gemology and identification of gemstones, uncovering the sleazy tricks of some charlatans, catching smugglers, determining the age of certain persons (process called epiphysis), and so on.

Captain Barnard finally called it a day in 1940 and moved back to England. Tracing his later days, H. Miller continues – In November 1942 Captain Barnard took charge of a tiny office in the Sheffield Royal Infirmary as Secretary of the Sheffield National Centre for Radiotherapy. From that time until he retired in 1964 his influence on the development of radiotherapy services in Sheffield was immense.

He worked with upcoming technologies such as megavoltage therapy, isotope facilities and started a new radiotherapy hospital. In 1946 T.W.B. began negotiations with MIT about building a 2 MV Van de Graf generator for Sheffield, the first commercial installation of such an equipment. Age never mattered for when he started all this in Sheffield, he was 58!
He passed away in 1978, aged a ripe 93 years.

Life has come a long way, nobody bats an eyelid thinking about the radiographer or radiologist. But I am sure many are aware that global radiology requirements these days are mostly outsourced to and handled from India, something Barnard can be proud about. The concept has even got a new name, tele-radiology, though it relates not to the X-ray work, but studying the pictures and sending the diagnosis back taking advantage of time differences and having a report ready by the start of the next working day.

Note: The title states Dr. Barnard. He was not a doctor licensed with a medical degree, but was virtually considered one by dint of his meritorious service and the knowledge he possessed about his own field.

Call from the needy

But you may wonder how I stumbled into researching Capt. Barnard’s life in Madras. Well as it happened, some months ago, my good friend Nick Balmer from the UK sent me a link from the British Library suggesting that it could present an interesting challenge. The archives department was trying to unearth the story behind a letter received by Capt Barnard in June 1923, a letter sent by four girls from a small village near Trichur in Kerala, requesting monetary help. I tried as hard as I could to find some information, but only succeeded in figuring out that the girls belonged to St. Mary’s school in Chengaloor. Did Capt Barnard visit that area with a mobile Xray or something or did he just pass by the Trichur area and the school? He must have visited Malabar just after he got to India, so was it a pleasure trip, a vacation or on an X-Ray camp? I could find no details at all.

One thing is clear, Capt Barnard made an impression on those little girls at Trichur as you can make out from the picture attached. OJ Annie, Catherine, Mary and Elizabeth remain ghosts from the past. I don’t know if they received the food, books and clothes they requested, but I believe they did since Capt Barnard treasured this letter and stored it in his collection till he died. The letter itself is remarkable and bordered with all the used stamps the girls could find, of the Princely states of Travancore and Cochin.

Page 6 image

The letter reads:

Jesus Mercy.

The good God rewardeth even a cup of Cold Water given in His name to one of His little ones.
O.J. Annie, Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth. Poor Students. Chemgaloor, Pudukad Post, Malabar
Most Honoured Sir,

We, four poor student girls (Mary and Catherine are orphans) most respectfully and humbly beg to state that we are in great difficulties and distress. We are badly in need of food and clothes. We are promoted to our new class. We have not got new books. We most humbly pray you will be kind enough to send us some help. We pray you will not refuse our humble prayer. Thanking you in anticipation, we beg to remain

Yours most obedient and humble servants.
O.J. Annie and others

– Maddy

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