Subhash Mukhopadhyay (physician)

Subhash Mukhopadhyay (Shubhash Mukhopaddhae, Subhas Mukerji) (16 January 1931 – 19 June 1981) was a physician from Kolkata, India, who created the world’s second and India’s first child using in-vitro fertilisation, Durga who was born 67 days after the first IVF baby in United Kingdom. Unfortunately, Dr. Subhash Mukhopadhyay was harassed by the state government, and not allowed to share his achievements with the international scientific community. Dejected, he committed suicide on 19 June 1981

His life and death has been the subject of countless newspaper reviews and inspired the Hindi movie Ek Doctor Ki Maut (Death of a doctor), directed by Tapan Sinha.

Early life

He was born on 16 January 1931 in a Brahmin family in Hazaribagh, Bihar (now in Jharkhand), India. He studied and graduated (in 1955) with an honours degree in physiology from the Calcutta National Medical College, which was then affiliated with the prestigious University of Calcutta. He later earned a doctorate from the University of Calcutta in 1958 reproductive physiology under the stewardship of Prof. Sachchidananda Banerjee. Later he earned a second doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 1967 in reproductive endocrinology,


He created history when working with Sunit Mukherji, a cryobiologist, and gynecologist Dr. Saroj Kanti Bhattacharya he became the first physician in India (and second in the world after British physicians Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards) to perform the In vitro fertilisation resulting in a test tube baby “Durga” (alias Kanupriya Agarwal) on 3 October 1978.

Facing social ostracisation, bureaucratic negligence, reprimand and insult instead of recognition from the West Bengal government, and refusal of the Government of Indiato allow him to attend international conferences,he committed suicide in his Calcutta residence on 19 June 1981.

His feat has been given belated recognition as the Indian physician who in 1986 was officially regarded as being the first doctor to perform in-vitro fertilisation in India.

His recognition is attributable to T. C. Anand Kumar who is credited to be the mastermind behind India’s second (officially the first) test-tube baby. Kumar took the crown off his own head after reviewing Subhash Mukhopadhyay’s personal notes. He was ably helped by Sunit Mukherji, who was a one-time colleague of Mukhopadhyay. Kumar is currently active in setting up a research institute in reproductive biology in memory of Mukhopadhyay.

A film Ek Doctor Ki Maut directed by Tapan Sinha was made on his life.

End of experiment

18 November 1978. An “expert” committee was appointed by the Government of West Bengal under the medical association to decide over the fate of a convict named Dr. Subhas Mukhopahyay. His charges are, one, he claims to be the architect of first human test tube baby named Durga (3 October 1978). Secondly, he announced the report to the media before being cleared by the Government bureaucrats. Thirdly, he made the impossible possible with few general apparatus and a refrigerator in his small apartment when others cannot even think of despite having expensive resources (in this research Mukhopadhyay was assisted by Sunit Mukherji and S.K. Bhattacharya). Fourth and most important allegation, he never let his head down by the Government Bureaucrats and his straightforwardness always attracted jealousy out of his peers.

The committee was presided over by a Radio physicist and it was composed of a gynaecologist, a psychologist, a physicist and a neurologist. None of them had any knowledge about modern reproductive technology . “Where did you keep these embryos?”Mukhopahdhyay said “in sealed ampules.” Then he asked again “How did you seal an ampule?” Speechless Mukhopadhyay could only utter “pardon?” From here started a questioning and counter questioning session which need not to be mentioned was utterly meaningless. “Oh! Embryos do not die while sealing?” there were people who never saw embryos in the entire span of their lifetime.

The Committee put forward its final verdict, “Everything that Dr. Mukhopadhyay claims is bogus.”

Only 67 days earlier, on 25 July 1978, world’s first human test tube baby Louise Joy Brown was born at Oldham General Hospital in England. Architects were Robert Edward and Patrick Steptoe. In their procedure they collected an ovum by using a laparoscope. At first they observed the evolution and development of the ovum for a long time and then collected it through a small incision. The ovum thus collected is then fertilised by sperm on a small disc. When it forms into an embryo scientists placed it into the womb. But Mukhopadhyay without using a laparoscope collected the ovum by performing a small operation in the vagina. He increased the number of ova collected by using hormones and developed an embryo. Lastly, he placed it in the womb. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2010 for his efforts.

Thanks to his peers and Government bureaucrats he was ultimately handed a punishment and transferred to an ophthalmic department which sealed his prospect of working on hormones.

Late recognition

An insulting silence carried on with every passing day. According to scientific records, Harsha vardhan reddy buri (born 16 August 1986) become the first human test tube baby of India. The credit for this achievement went to T. C. Anand Kumar, Director of IRR (ICMR). In 1997, he went to Kolkata to participate in a Science Congress. It was there that all the research documents of Mukhopadhyay were handed over to him. After meticulously scrutinising and having discussions with Durga’s parents, he became certain that Mukhopadhyay was the architect of first human test tube baby in India. This eminent scientist once mentioned in a journal on ‘A critique of Mukherjee ‘s technique’The brief description given by Mukherjee in his letter dated 19 October 1978 to the Director of Health Services, Government of West Bengal, the reports he gave over the television interviews and reported in the lay press describe how Mukherjee carried out the procedure of in vitro fertilisation.

On T.C. Anand Kumar’s initiative, Mukhopahdhyay was mentioned as the architect of first Indian test tube baby in a document related to the subject of artificial intercourse in ICMR. India’s first test tube baby “Durga”, whose parental name is Kanupriya Agarwal, works in a Multinational Company as a Marketing Executive in Delhi. On her 25th birthday she first exposed her identity in a ceremony organised in the memory of Mukhopahdhyay.She spoke about her creator in front of the media and proved once again that her creator’s claim was not bogus.

In the ‘Dictionary of Medical Biography,’ published by World Foundation, enlists names of 1100 Medical Scientists from 100 countries around the world for their path breaking contributions to the medical science, Dr. Mukhopadhyay’s name is one of those names. What is more ridiculous is that after his death, in 1981, one by one three scientists Howard Jones, Gleicher and Trounson (Australia) in three separate research claimed the invention of Human test tube baby. All these three research were already successfully accomplished by Mukhopadhyay long before their time. One of these scientists even found his research published in the famous Journal Nature.