240th Foundation Day of The Asiatic Society  

Partha Roy

The Asiatic Society celebrated its 240th Foundation Day on 15th January 2023 at iconic heritage Vidyasagar Hall in Kolkata. Celebration program began by placing wreath at the tomb of Sir William Jones , Founder of the society,  at South Park Steet cemetery, followed by Flag hoisting ceremony at The Asiatic Society premises , which was followed by Foundation Day oration by Professor Chandrima Shaha, President of Indian National Science Academy , former Director and Professor of Eminence of National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi. Professor Chandrima Shaha spoke on ” Pandemics : Impact on creativity through the ages ” Professor Chandrima Shaha is first woman academic and  scientist to deliver Foundation Day oration of The Asiatic Society in its accountable history.

Welcoming the august gathering, Dr. Satyabrata Chakraborty, General Secretary of The Asiatic Society spoke about uninterrupted journey of The  Asiatic Society since 1784 with accomodated and long sustained academic tradition as in case of any premier heritage institution of the world. The Asiatic Society is a national pride on its own merits and strength and is involved in promotion of research on classical knowledge in history, science arts primarily in man and nature interface.
The Asiatic Society is continuing its legacy academic agenda mandate since its inaguration in 1784 by Sir William Jones till date. The Asiatic Society started to explore Asian Civilizational culture in general and Indian civilizational cultural developments in particular.

Professor Chandrima Shaha spoke on evolution of pandemic since the beginning of human civilization development. Professor Shaha mentioned evolution of microbes started much before evolution of homosapiens. Evolution of microbes including bacteria and viruses had touched human civilization development from pre- historic time including leading to extinction of  various species from face of planet Earth. Professor Shaha mentioned Smallpox was used as a tool of war. Smallpox devasted the AZTECS and Spain conquer a American civilization nearly 500 years ago. Smallpox was known during Egyptian civilization and even caused death of  elite rulers as well as royal family members. Professor Chandrima Shaha mentioned smallpox triggered the greatest public health achievement – ” Variolation –Vaccination–Eradication ” For India, accounts in the 18th century show that the practice of inoculation did existed including in Bengal.
Edward Jenner pioneered the development of vaccination technology. Edward Jenner ‘s method of preventive care through vaccination saved billions of lives in modern times. Professor Chandrima Shaha concluded by saying ” We know so much, yet we do not know enough ” . Professor Swapan Kumar Pramanik President of The Asiatic Society in his Presidential address highlighted historical legacy of The  Asiatic Society. Professor Pramanik mentioned even before setting foot in India Sir William Jones was contemplating to explore oriental civilizational heritage.  Sir William Jones  established The Asiatic Society to explore and research on oriental civilizational  development.

Sir William Jones gave thrust on  documentation and publication  of  research findings to record as well as spread awareness about multifaceted oriental  cultural and civilizational development.  Professor Pramanik mentioned Sir William Jones thought was ” publish or perish ” .  Professor Pramanik mentioned about Raja Rajendralal Mitra first Indian President of The Asiatic Society who researched on multifaceted culture of Odisha and who published major scholarly work ” The antiquities of Orissa” .    Further , Professor Pramanik mentioned four major societies, namely Anthropological Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, Zoological Society of India, and Indian Science Congress have originated from The Asiatic Society. The Asiatic Society also played role in establishment of Indian Museum in Kolkata which is one of the largest museum in Asia and museum development movement in India. The library of the society has rich collection of more than 1.5 lac books ,rare manuscripts , historical artifacts, documents, tablets etc. which are available for serious knowledge seekers to study. Professor Pramanik echoed the spirit of Processor Chandrima Shaha ” We know so much, yet we do not know enough “

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