Isabel Kerr

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Isabel Kerr
Photograph of Kerr vaccinating a child
Isabel Kerr vaccinating a child
Born Isabella Gunn
(1875-05-30)30 May 1875
Enzie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died 12 January 1932(1932-01-12) (aged 56)
Nationality Scottish
Education University of Aberdeen
Occupation physician
Known for medical missionary
treatment of leprosy
recipient of Kaisar-i-Hind_Medal
George Kerr (m. 1903)
Medical career
Specialism leprosy

Isabella Kerr (née Gunn; 30 May 1875 – 12 January 1932) was a Scottish medical missionary who worked in India in the early 20th-century. She created the Victoria Leprosy Centre in Hyderabad. She worked to cure leprosy in India.[1]


Isabella Kerr was born in Enzie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 30 May 1875 to Mary Gardner and John Bain Gunn, a farmer. She studied medicine at the University of Aberdeen receiving her MB ChB in 1903.[2] She met the Reverend George McGlashan Kerr, a former joiner, who had returned from being a missionary in Southern Rhodesia. They married in 1903, and worked together in England until the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society sent them to Hyderabad in India in 1907.[3]

At their mission she and her husband worked on unrelated work[3] but they both realised that the treatment of patients with leprosy was inadequate. In 1911 Kerr opened a leprosy centre at the mission in Nizamabad, Telangana, however in time it attracted more patients than the it could accommodate. She received a donation from the Nizam of Hyderbad to help build the Victoria Treatment Hospital on donated land at Dichpali, and in 1915 this larger and more permanent facility opened.[2][4] By the early 1920s the hospital had grown to more than 120 buildings.[2]

She worked with Ernest Muir who had piloted the use of hydrocarbons to treat leprosy. Their centre at Dichpali was seen as leading the campaign against leprosy. She and her husband were awarded Kaisar-i-Hind Medals in 1923.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Kerr died suddenly in 1932. Her husband remained in India until 1938 when he retired to Scotland.[3] In the 1960s the leprosy centre that she founded had over 400 patients.[4] The papers of Kerr and her husband are held in University of Edinburgh.[5]


  1. ^ Ewan, Elizabeth; Innes, Sue; Reynolds, Siân; Pipes, Rose, eds. (2006). Kerr, Isabel. The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 194. ISBN 9780748632930. 
  2. ^ a b c "Portrait of a lady in Nizamabad: Isabel Kerr. Wellcome Library Item of the Month". Wellcome Library. 
  3. ^ a b c d Gerald H. Anderson (1999). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-8028-4680-8. 
  4. ^ a b Victoria Leprosy Hospital (Dichpali / Dichpalli), LeprosyHistory, Retrieved 13 March 2017
  5. ^ Papers of George McGlashan Kerr and Isabel Kerr, International Leprosy Association, Retrieved 13 April 2017