William James Wanless

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir William James Wanless
Photo of Sir William James Wanless.
Sir William James Wanless
Born (1865-05-01)May 1, 1865
Charleston (now Caledon village, Town of Caledon), Ontario, Canada
Died March 3, 1933(1933-03-03) (aged 67)
Glendale, California, United States
Education Doctor of Medicine
New York University School of Medicine
Years active 40 Years
Known for Medical Mission in Miraj, India
Medical career
Profession Surgeon & medical missionary to India
Institutions Wanless Hospital, Miraj
Notable prizes Knight Bachelor of the British Empire

Sir William James Wanless, M.D., F.A.C.S. (May 1, 1865 – March 3, 1933) was a Canadian born surgeon, humanitarian and Presbyterian missionary who founded a medical mission in Miraj, India in 1894 and led it for nearly 40 years.[1][2][3][4] As part of this mission, Dr. Wanless founded India's first missionary medical school in 1897, and helped to establish a leprosy sanatorium as well as a tuberculosis hospital, now known as the Wanless Chest Hospital.[5][6]

His medical mission turned the once-small village of Miraj into a major medical center in India. By the time he retired in 1928, the clinic he started had become a 250-bed hospital with several important adjuncts.[7] He is considered by many to be India's most famous surgeon of the 19th century, and was known throughout Asia, personally treating princes, rajahs and Mahatma Gandhi.[7][8] In 1928, he was knighted by King George V, who appointed him Knight Bachelor of the British Empire, for treating 1,000,000 patients and restoring sight to 12,000 of them.[9][10][11] The Wanless Hospital in Miraj bears his name, and is now a modern 550-bed teaching hospital.[12]

Early life and education[edit]

William James Wanless was born on May 1, 1865 to Elizabeth and John Wanless in the then-community of Charleston (now part of Caledon), Ontario, Canada.[7][13] He was the sixth of 14 children, including two elder brothers who died in childhood. His father, born in Barrow, Alwinton, Northumberland, England (or possibly Jedboro, Scotland) on December 30, 1832, emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 17, later emigrating to Canada where he variously became a railroader, a hardware store owner (John Wanless & Sons), and a home heating furnace manufacturer in Toronto (where Wanless Park and several streets are named after one of their distant relations, also a John Wanless, a municipal alderman and educator).[14][15] During his childhood and adolescence, William was educated in the schools of Charleston, Mount Forrest and Guelph, Ontario.

He graduated from the New York University School of Medicine in 1889. He married Mary Elizabeth Marshall on September 5, 1889 in Canada, and sailed for India the same year.[13][16][17] Mary gave birth to Ethel at Miraj on Dec 2, 1891. Mary died on August 12, 1906. On December 5, 1907, Dr William married again at Kodoli to Lillian Emery Havens, who survived him. Lillian gave birth to 3 children: Harold L. Wanless on October 2, 1908, at Miraj; Robert Emery Wanless who became a PanAm Boeing pilot' and Margaret Elizabeth Wanless on August 24, 1917 in Toronto. Lillian later wrote his biography.[14][18]

Wanless was a delegate to the 1910 World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was president of the Missionary Medical Association of India from 1911 to 1928. In 1918 he was made a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He was erroneously reported as dead in 1922; the incorrect report and its subsequent retraction made headlines in the United States.[3][19]

Mission in India[edit]

 Photo of William Wanless age 23 at New York
William Wanless, age 23, at the New York University School of Medicine, ca.1888.

The Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, sent Dr. Wanless to India in 1889.[20][21] In 1891, he selected the rustic town of Miraj in Maharashtra State for the mission hospital. The Mission was started as a one-room dispensary in a very small rented place at a busy bazaar, and he was assisted by his wife, Mary, a trained nurse. The Rajah of Miraj, Rajah Sir Gangadharrao Ganesh (Bala Saheb) Patwardhan, provided him with land for a hospital which was formally opened in 1894, in a part of the city now known as Wanlesswadi.[22][23]

With the establishment of a hospital, the need for higher quality medical care was increasingly felt, and towards that end a School of Nursing was founded in 1897 under the superintendence of Miss Elizabeth Foster. It has since steadily developed into one of the best nursing schools in Maharashtra.[6]

The Mary Wanless Hospital was founded in memory of Wanless's first wife Mary after her death in 1906. Now called the Mary Wanless Hospital / Miraj Medical Centre, it still attracts hundreds of poor and needy patients from across India and abroad. He established the Miraj Christian Medical School in 1907, which later graduated its first group of 17 students, with its only qualified teacher being Wanless himself. In 1917 the medical school was recognized for a Diploma of Licentiate by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Mumbai (LCPS), similar to the LRCP of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) of England.[24]

Wanless established a Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1920. At the time of his retirement in 1928, money was raised by citizens and his friends to erect a new building called the Wanless Tuberculosis Sanatorium, now known as Wanless Chest Hospital.[3] It is one of the premier institutions in the country.[6]

The Vail Memorial Cancer Institute, named after Dr. Charles E. Vail who joined Wanless three years later, and the Goheen Psychiatric Clinic were started in 1937 and 1955 respectively.[25] The Goheen Clinic was named after Dr. Robert H. H. Goheen, father of Robert Francis Goheen, These facilities have effectively served the purposes for which they were established, that is in providing quality health care to all irrespective of caste, creed, religion or financial means.[26]

Additionally, Wanless established five outpost stations attached to the hospital, and paid the hospital's staff of 125, living only on his missionary's salary sent by the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, while donating his personal staff salary to the mission.[7]

Retirement and legacy[edit]

In 1928, after almost forty years of medical missionary service in India, Wanless retired to live in the United States.[27] He wrote a book, Medicine in India, on his life as a doctor in India. He died at his home, 1016 Matillja Street, Glendale, California on March 3, 1933, and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the same city.[1][2] His wife Lillian died in 1973 at the age of 99 years at their home in Glendale, California. Wanless's son Harold later carried on his father's tradition by studying medicine at the University of Toronto.[7]

Since its inception over 115 years ago his medical mission has grown into an institution consisting of a 550-bed teaching hospital affiliated with India's Government Medical College, a College of Nursing, an Institute of Pharmacy and various paramedical programmes.[20][28]

The Wanless Hospital and Wanless Chest Hospital are now located in the township of 'Wanlesswadi', that is ‘Wanless town’, made notable for its medical institutions. The name was given it by its citizens in that part of India and is recognized by the federal government of India. Wanlesswadi has its own Postal Index Number, 416414, and the Indian Railways also has a station named 'Wanlesswadi’ on its Miraj–Sangli Route, which opened on April 1, 1907 for the use by ill or needy patients from across India and from abroad.[29]

As a secondary and tertiary care centre, Wanless Hospital serves a large part of western Maharashtra and North Karnataka.[30] The Wanless Hospital reputedly provides the best possible medical care to all its patients; an institution for comprehensive and dedicated health care.[12]


The badge of a Knight Bachelor

Dr. Wanless received official honors from Great Britain on three occasions:

The Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III presented him a silver casket with a farewell address on his retirement.[3]


A partial list of his writings and works includes:

As cited in other works
  • Wanless, William James. "The Medical Mission", 1898.
  • Wanless, William James. "Medical Missions: Facts and Testimonies".
  • Wanless, William James. "An American Doctor at Work in India", New York, 1932.

Archival Collections[edit]

The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has Sir W. J. Wanless' Papers, including Dr. Wanless' correspondence, notes and diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs of the mission hospital work.


  1. ^ a b c "Dr. William J. Wanless". New York Times. March 4, 1933. Retrieved 2010-09-30. ... who was decorated by the King of England for distinguished service at the Presbyterian Hospital at Miraj India died here today after six weeks illness. 
  2. ^ a b "Dr. Wanless, of Fame In India, Dies". Los Angeles Times. March 4, 1933. Retrieved 2010-09-30. Death came today to Dr. William James Wanless, 67 years of age, internationally known physician and author, at his home, 1016 Matillja street, in Glendale, California. He had been ill for six weeks. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Sir William James Wanless". The British Medical Journal. 1 (3768): 544–5. March 25, 1933. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3768.544-d. PMC 2368392Freely accessible. PMID 20777450. 
  4. ^ Lyle L. Vander Werff (1977). Christian Mission to Muslims: The Record : Anglican and Reformed Approaches in India and the Near East, 1800–1938. William Carey Library series on Islamic studies. William Carey Library. pp. 366 pages. ISBN 9780878083206. 
  5. ^ Shavit, David (1990). The United States in Asia: A Historical Dictionary (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 514. ISBN 9780313267888. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c DR. ARUNCHANDRA S. PATHAK , Executive Editor and Secretary, ed. (1969). "PUBLIC LIFE AND VOLUNTARY SOCIAL SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS in Sangli Dist.". Sangli District Gazetteer. The Gazetteers Department Maharashtra Government. Mumbai: The Gazetteers Department Maharashtra Government. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Bull, Win Parkings (1934 & 1954). From Medicine Man To Medical Man: A Record of a Century And A Half of Progress in Health and Sanitation as Exemplified By Developments In Peel. Toronto: The Parkings Bull Foundation, George J Mcleod Ltd. p. 366. Retrieved October 3, 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Gandhi, M.K. Letter to Sir William Wanless, M.K. Gandhi, June 2, 1931. Retrieved from the MKGandhi.org website, October 6, 2010.
  9. ^ "Dignity of Kinghthood". The Scothman. March 14, 1928. p. 8. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Dr. William James Wanless, Physician. Knighted by King George and Also Honored by India for Public Services. Missionary For 39 Years. Treated More Than 1,000,000 Patients, Restored Sight of 12,000 and Built Great Hospital". New York Times. March 6, 1933. Retrieved 2010-09-30. Sir William James Wanless, MD, retired Presbyterian Missionary who was knighted by King George V and honored by the British Government in India for his ... 
  11. ^ The London Gazette. London. January 2, 1928 as a Supplement to Gazette Issue 33343 published on the 30 December 1927. p. 10. Retrieved 3 October 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ a b "Wanless Hospital, Miraj Medical center Web". Miraj India. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b David Shavit (1990). The United States in Asia: A Historical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 620. ISBN 0-313-26788-X. Wanless, William James (1865–1933). Medical missionary, born May 1, 1865, in Charleston, Ontario, Canada. Wanless graduated from University Medical College (New York City). He was a missionary under the Board of Foreign Missions of the ... 
  14. ^ a b John Wanless, 1832–1911, Wanless Web genealogical website. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  15. ^ "WANLESS PARK HISTORY". Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  16. ^ Suryawanshi, Rev. S. N. Dr. Sir William J. Wanless Physician Extraordinaire. Word of Life Publications, 31, Guru Nanaknagar, Pune-42, India. 
  17. ^ a b "American Medical Association" (PDF). Journal of the American Medical Association. American Medical Association. 100 / 14. 1933. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  18. ^ The Ontario Register. Vol 11, page 99.
  19. ^ "Dr. Wanless Not Dead In India As Reported". Hartford Courant. July 13, 1922. Retrieved 2010-09-30. Announcement was made by the Presbyterian hoard of foreign missions today that Dr William Wanless who was reported dead in India on July 7 ... 
  20. ^ a b "Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church". Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  21. ^ History of the Expansion of Christianity (volume vi). Taylor & Francis. 
  22. ^ Kunte, G.J. Miraj Senior (Princely State): Predecessor Rulers and Short History, CHARITRA OF ADYA SANSTHAPAK CHINTAMANRAO APPASAHEB PATWARDHAN, 1972. Retrieved from University of Queensland, Australia, Genealogical Gleanings website, October 6, 2010.
  23. ^ The Times of India Directory and Year Book Including Who's Who. Times of India Press. 1969. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  24. ^ Dawood, Yusuf Kodwavwala (2002). Nothing But The Truth. East African Publishers. p. 326. ISBN 9789966251220. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  25. ^ Dawood, Yusuf Kodwavwala (2002). Nothing But The Truth. Vitabu Vya Sayari Series. East African Publishers. p. 346. ISBN 9789966251220. 
  26. ^ India Planning Commission (1955). Social Welfare in India. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. pp. 850 pages. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Ends 40 Years In India. Dr. W.J. Wanless Arrives to Retire From Missionary Work". New York Times. March 13, 1928. Retrieved 2010-09-30. Dr. William James Wanless, Presbyterian missionary to India, arrived yesterday on the Caronia of the Cunard Line to retire, after more than forty years in the missionary field in Miraj, India. 
  28. ^ Lillian Emery Havens Wanless (1944). Wanless of India: Lancet Of The Lord. W. A. Wilde company. pp. 366 pages. 
  29. ^ . The Gazetteers Department Maharashtra Government http://www.maharashtra.gov.in/english/gazetteer/SANGLI/comm_railways.html. Retrieved October 3, 2010.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. ^ Montgomery, Helen Barrett (2010). The King's Highway. READ BOOKS. p. 326. ISBN 9781444696042. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 

External links[edit]