ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lady Tata Memorial Trust and Leukaemia Research in Europe, 1932-53

The Lady Tata Memorial Trust, established in 1932 in Bombay, was among the earliest philanthropic foundations created to support leukaemia research globally. Very little was known about leukaemia, a major mystery in medical science, at the time. The trust provided fellowships and grants to some of the leading international researchers and contributed signifi cantly to the advancement of knowledge about leukaemia. This article presents an account of its work during the first two decades and throws light on a little known aspect in the history of international and Indian medical philanthropy as also leukaemia and cancer research.

Philanthropy since the early 20th century has left an indelible mark on the advancement of medical science, particularly in the United States (US) and Europe. Some philanthropic foundations and trusts reached out well beyond the national boundaries of their geographical location to support medical research. Literature on philanthropy and scientific medicine has, quite understandably, focused almost exclusively on the intervention of philanthropic foundations based in the West. For obvious reasons, the role of the Rockefeller Foundation, the most prominent amongst these with its pioneering engagement in global public health and medicine, dominates nearly all of this literature. In Britain philanthropic support to medical research has come notably from the Wellcome Trust and the Nuffield Foundation.

The Lady Tata Memorial Trust (LTMT), established in 1932 in Bombay (now Mumbai), is among the pioneers in global medical philanthropy. Indian medical philanthropy emerged in the early 19th century. With encouragement from the British colonial regime, wealthy Indians gave donations or took initiatives to establish dispensaries and hospitals to provide medical care to Indians (Ramanna 2002). In later years, Indians responded to professional and government appeals for financial support to organise medical research and the founding of bacteriological laboratories and medical institutes. Public subscriptions and large individual donations from Indians to these institutions were common. The LTMT was an important departure in modern Indian medical philanthropy. Organised and purposive, it was the first Indian foundation to offer funding to individual medical scientists globally to conduct research in an area for which none or little support existed.

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