A Doctor & the First Nilgiri Guide

(After the departure of the pioneer-stalwarts like Sullivan and Lushington, the progress of Nilgiris would have languished but for the enthusiasm  and active contribution of some of the newly settled Europeans. Among them the name of Dr.Baikie stands first.

Dr. Baikie was among the first medical professionals to come to Nilgiris soon after its opening up in 1819. As Asst. Surgeon he served in the original Convalescent Depo at Ooty  and later at Kotagiri and many places.

Dr. Baike’s fame lies in his prolific writings to promote the healthfulness of the Nilgiris. Ironically, the climate of Nilgiris which he glorified so highly was not kind to his own health forcing him to return to his country).

Apart from his contributions to medical journals, Dr. Baikie  published, in 1834,  the first ever guide to  “The Neilgherries” which did more than any other publication to promote Nilgiris in India and outside. The book, edited by W.H. Smoult, a Judge of the Supreme Court,  was so popular that it was republished 23 years after in 1857 at the request of Governor Harris. Sir Frederick Price  in his monumental work ‘Ootacamund-a History’ in 1906 quoted from Dr. Baikie’s book profusely.

 Dr. Robert Baikie, (1799-1889) belonged to a landed gentry in Scotland,  He was educated at Edinburgh Univ (MD, 1820) and was a surgeon in the East India Co.’s Madras Army (Asst Surgeon, 1820; Surgeon, 1834; retired 1844).  He returned from India in indifferent health and made a practice of walking many miles every day. He practiced in Edinburgh and treated his patients increasingly with homeopathic remedies.  He married in 1852 Helen Elizabeth but had no issue. He died in Edinburgh, 5 August 1889.

Dr. Baikie was the first secretary of the Ooty Club and an active member of the Nilgiri Library. Baikie House ( I think it is presently with TNEB) at Ooty was built around 1829 with a government grant. Later it passed into many hands including that of H.B.Grigg, the author of the Manual of the Nilgiris (1880).

Nilgiri Documentation Centre

image courtesy : https://www.geni.com/people/Robert-Baikie-of-Tankerness/6000000034313943228

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