Subhas Mukherjee was the first physician who performed the In Vitro fertilization (IVF) in India, just 67 days after the birth of the world’s first test-tube baby by Robert Edwards. In fact, Mukherjee’s method was preferred over Robert Edwards nowadays. The extraordinary story about India’s first test-tube baby was that Mukherjee used a simple apparatus and a refrigerator, unlike his peers. But the man behind the birth of India’s first test-tube baby never got the recognition he truly deserves. Instead, he was ridiculed by the public, harassed and abused by the government, denied permission to present his work to the international community, and was considered a threat by the gynecologist community. Feeling crushed and dejected, he took his own life.
Subhas Mukherjee was a Bengali physician, the son of a doctor. He has a keen interest in gynecology in his early days as a student. He completed his Ph.D. in reproductive physiology from the University of Calcutta. After earning his second Ph.D. from Edinburgh University in reproductive endocrinology, he returned to India and started working on ovulation and spermatogenesis. Within a year of his return, he announced the birth of World’s second test-tube baby, two months after British Biologist, Robert Edwards announced the birth of the world’s first, Louise Brown. India’s first test-tube baby was named Durga.
Durga was born
Durga’s parents hailed from a very conservative Marwari family in Kolkata who had been childless for 13 years. They faced the social stigma for being childless for years until they couldn’t take no more. They were introduced to Subhas Mukherjee through mutual friends. It was the blend of their trust and Mukherjee’s genius that translated into a breakthrough that changes the science of gynecology forever. Nowadays, his method was preferred over Robert Edwards.
Reception from people
Subhas may have been the pioneers of IVF. Today, he was given his due recognition for his breakthrough. But the announcement of this great invention at the time was not met with the expectations he had hoped. Following his announcement, West Bengal Marxist’s government formed a committee to investigate his breakthrough invention in 1978. The committee consists of people who knew nothing about modern reproductive technology. The committee abused and harassed Subhas Mukherjee and declared his work as bogus. They accused him of fraud. People ridiculed him and was considered as a shame to the society. He was rejected and ostracized by the people.
His own people may have ridiculed him, and his own government may have ignored him, but the international community was welcoming to his breakthrough. Dr. Mukherjee was invited to Japan to present his work to the international community. To his dismay, the West Bengal government denied him permission to travel to Japan. Subhas never got the chance to present his work to the international community again. He was disheartened by the treatment of the government. He felt humiliated. West Bengal Government even stopped his research and transferred him to an eye hospital, Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Kolkata. His transfer was the final nail in the coffin, the blow he couldn’t take. Within weeks, he took his own life out of humiliation.
India lost one of the brightest minds that ever lived on the planet just because people could not believe it was possible. If we had been more welcoming with a broad mindset, we would not have lost such a great scientist.