Balfour, Edward Green (DNB01)

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BALFOUR, EDWARD GREEN (1813–1889), surgeon-general and writer on India, the second son of Captain George Balfour and his wife, a sister of Joseph Hume, M.P., was born at Montrose in Forfarshire on 6 Sept. 1813. He received his early education at the Montrose academy, proceeded to Edinburgh University, and after studying surgery became, in 1833, a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of that city. In 1834 he went to India and entered the medical department of the Indian army, and on 2 June 1836 he obtained a commission of assistant-surgeon. As executive officer he had, during various periods until 1862, medical charge of European and native artillery, and of native cavalry and infantry of both the Madras and Bombay armies, and was staff-surgeon at Ahmadnagar in the Deccan and at Bellary in the ceded districts. In 1850 he was acting government agent at Chepauk and paymaster of the Carnatic stipends. On 31 Dec. 1852 he attained the rank of full surgeon.

In 1845 Balfour published 'Statistical Data for forming Troops and maintaining them in Health in different Climates and Localities' (Madras?), and 'Observations on the Means of preserving the Health of Troops by selecting Healthy Localities for their Cantonments' (London), which brought him into some prominence as an authority on public health. In 1849 he received the thanks of the Madras government for his report 'On the Influence exercised by Trees on the Climate of a Country' (Madras Journal of Literature and Science, 1849; reprinted 1849 at Madras with similar reports). In the same year a treatise by him on 'Statistics of Cholera' was published at Madras. In 1850 he issued 'Remarks on the Causes for which Native Soldiers of the Madras Army were discharged the Service in the five Years from 1842-3 to 1846-7.'

During the early years of his service Balfour devoted much attention to the study of oriental languages, and became an expert scholar in Hindustani and Persian. In 1850 he published at Madras, under the title of 'Gul-Dastah, or the Bunch of Roses,' a lithographed series of extracts from Persian and Hindustani poets, and founded the Mohammedan Public Library at Madras, an institution containing books in English and oriental languages, open to all classes and creeds. This service to literature was, on his departure from India, gratefully acknowledged in an address in Persian which was presented to him at Madras by leading Mohammedans. From 1854 to 1861 he was often employed as Persian and Hindustani translator to the government.

In 1850 an offer made by Balfour to the government to form a museum in Madras was accepted, and the Government Central Museum was established with Balfour as its superintendent, an office which he undertook without remuneration, and filled till 1859. While holding this appointment he issued, besides several catalogues and general reports on the work of the museum, a number of publications relating to special branches of scientific study. These included a classified list of the Mollusca (Madras, 1855, fol.), a 'Report on the Iron Ores; the Manufacture of Iron and Steel; and the Coals of the Madras Presidency' (Madras, 1855, 8vo), and 'Remarks on the Gutta Percha of Southern India' (Madras, 1855, 8vo). He also wrote a prefatory description of the districts dealt with in a 'Barometrical Survey of India,' issued in 1853 under the editorship of a committee, of which Balfour was chairman, and in 1856 he published 'Localities of India exempt from Cholera.'

In 1857 appeared at Madras the work by which Balfour is best known, 'The Encyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Commercial, Industrial, and Scientific.' This book embodied great experience, vast reading, and indomitable industry. A second edition in five volumes appeared in India in 1873, and between 1877 and 1884 Balfour revised the book for publication in England. After the first edition the word 'Cyclopædia' was substituted in the title for 'Encyclopædia.' The third edition, which was published in London in 1885, was at many points superior to the earlier impressions. Balfour's outlay on it was lavish and ungrudging, but the usefulness of the work was soon generally recognised, and the whole expenditure was met within two years.

From 1858 to 1861 Balfour was commissioner for investigating the debts of the nawab of the Carnatic, at whose court he was for many years political agent. He acted for a short period as assistant assay master at the Madras mint, and in the military finance department of India he was at Madras examiner of medical accounts.

In 1862 he joined the administrative grade of the Madras medical staff. He was deputy inspector-general of hospitals from 1862 to 1870, and during this period he served as deputy surgeon-general in the Burmah division, the Straits Settlements, the Andamans, twice in the ceded districts, twice in the Mysore division, and for four years with the Hyderabad subsidiary force and Hyderabad cont ingent. He displayed the utmost energy in the personal inspection of his districts, and proved his continued interest in scientific matters by instituting the Mysore Museum in 1866, and by publishing at Madras a work on 'The Timber Trees, Timber, and Fancy Woods, as also the Forests of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia,' which reached a second edition in 1862, and a third in 1870.

From 1871 to 1876 Balfour was, as surgeon-general, head of the Madras medical department. In the second year of his period of office he conferred a great benefit on the natives of India by drawing the attention of the Madras government to the necessity for educating women in the medical profession, native social customs being such that native women, were debarred alike from receiving visits from medical men and from attending at the public hospitals and dispensaries. As a result the Madras Medical College was in 1875 opened to women, and his services in this direction were commemorated in 1891 by the endowment at Madras University of a 'Balfour memorial' gold medal, with the object of encouraging the medical education of women. Balfour's last publications before leaving India were two pamphlets with the general title 'Medical Hints to the People of India.' They bore respectively the subtitles, 'The Vydian and the Hakim, what do they know of Medicine?' and 'Eminent Medical Men of Asia, Africa, Europe, and America, who have advanced Medical Science.' Both appeared at Madras in 1875, and reached second editions in the following year.

In 1876 Balfour finally returned to England with a good service pension, after forty-two years' residence in India. Before his departure public acknowledgment of his labours was made in an address presented to him at Madras by the Hindu, Mohammedan, and European communities. His portrait was placed in the Government Central Museum.

In England, besides preparing for the press the third edition of his 'Encyclopædia of India,' he issued 'Indian Forestry' (1885) and 'The Agricultural Pests of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Vegetable, Animal' (1887). He died on 8 Dec. 1889 at 107 Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park, at the age of seventy-six. He married, on 24 May 1852, the eldest daughter of Dr. Gilchrist of Madras.

Balfour was a fellow of the Madras University, and a corresponding member of the Imperial Royal Geological Institute of Vienna. In addition to the works enumerated above, he translated into Hindustani Dr. J. T. Conquest's 'Outlines of Midwifery,' and procured and printed at his own expense translations of the same work in Tamil, Telugu, and Canarese. He also translated into Hindustani Gleig's ' Astronomy,' and prepared in 1854 a diglot Hindustani and English 'Statistical Map of the World,' which was also rendered and printed in Tamil and Telugu. To periodical literature he made a large number of contributions on various subjects, a list of which is given in the 'Cyclopædia of India' (3rd edit. 1885).

His elder brother, Sir George Balfour (1809–1894), general and politician, was born at Montrose in 1809. He was educated at the Military Academy at Addiscombe, entered the Madras artillery in 1825, and in the following year joined the royal artillery, and ultimately rose to the rank of general. He served with the Malacca field force in 1832-1833, and, as brigade major, in the campaign against Kurnool in 1839, being present at the battle of Zorapore on 18 Oct. He was staff officer of the Madras forces in the war against China in 1840-2, and took part in the principal actions of the campaign, and was elected joint agent for captured public property; he was also receiver of the ransom payable under the treaty of Nankin, and he settled and paid the hong debts due by the Chinese merchants. From 1843 till 1866 he was consul at Shanghai. He received his commission as captain in the artillery corps on 26 March 1844, and obtained the brevet rank of field officer in the artillery on 8 Oct. 1847. From 1849 till 1857 he was an acting stipendiary member of the military board at the Madras Presidency, and during this time was employed as a commissioner to inquire into the Madras public works establishments. He was made 1854. He received the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel of the Madras artillery in 1856, in 1857 he became colonel, and in 1858 attained the regimental rank of lieutenant-colonel of artillery. In 1860 he was specially commissioned by the viceroy, Lord Canning, to inquire into the condition of the native and European troops forming the garrison of Burmah. He was a member of the military finance commission in 1859 and 1860, and from 1860 till 1862 he was chief of the military finance department formed to ensure economy in military expenditure. His labours in this connection met with high commendation from the Indian government, and after his return to England he was employed in 1866 on the recruiting commission. The thoroughness of his work on this commission led to his nomination in 1867 as assistant to the controller-in-chief at the war office; he filled this post from 1868 till 1871, and was created K.C.B. in 1870. He was promoted major-general in 1866, lieutenant-general in 1874, and general in 1877. In 1872 he was elected liberal M.P. for Kincardineshire, and held the seat until 1892. In 1875 he supplied a preface on the 'commercial, political, and military advantages in all Asia' to a collection of articles and letters on 'Trade and Salt in India Free,' reprinted from the 'Times.' He died in London on 12 March 1894 at 6 Cleveland Gardens, S.W. He married in 1848 Charlotte Isabella, the third daughter of Joseph Hume, M.P.

[Times, 13 and 15 March 1894, 11 Dec. 1889; Cyclopædia of India; Madras Army List; Nineteenth Century, November 1887, article on Medical Women by Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake; Madras University Cal. 1891-2; Kelly's London Medical Direct. 1890; Walford's County Families; Guide to City of Madras, 1889; private information.]

C. E. H.