Nineteenth Century American Medical Missionaries in Jaffna, Ceylon:
With Special Reference to Samuel Fisk Green
By Thiru Arumugam
In the first decade of the nineteenth century a movement began in America which had
the objective of evangelizing the non-Christian world. The second set of missionaries
sent out went to Jaffna, Ceylon, in 1816. This book outlines the activities of these
medical missionaries in Jaffna in the nineteenth century, particularly the outstanding
contribution of Samuel Fisk Green.
Thiru Arumugam was born in Sri Lanka and is a Chartered Engineer and holds a Masters
Degree in Business Administration. In retirement he has found the time to write a
book about a subject that has interested him for some time "Nineteenth Century American
Medical Missionaries in Jaffna, Ceylon: with special reference to Samuel Fisk Green".
Further details about this book can be seen at www.thiruarumugam.com
He has also written a book titled "Science and Civilisation in Sri Lanka, Volume
4, Part 1: D J Wimalasurendra and the history of the Laxapana Hydroelectric Scheme".
This book is obtainable through www.marymartin.com
To read a book is to enter into, and inhabit, the world and times it represents.
Here, in Arumugam's work, we encounter the human beings behind the label "missionary".
Prior to the opening of the Suez Canal (1869), the voyage from America, non-stop,
took between four and five months. To send a letter from Ceylon and receive a reply
meant a lapse of eight to ten months. Missionaries were expected to serve until they
retired or passed away: leaving on missionary work often meant saying goodbye forever
to loved family and friends, familiar environment and culture. It demanded conviction
and commitment; called for endurance and quiet heroism. Miss Elizabeth Agnew, Principal
of Uduvil Girls' School, served from 1840 until her death forty-three years later.
During this period, she never visited America, saying she was too busy to go on holiday.
Having taught so many girls, she was known as "the mother of a thousand daughters"
(p. 27). Dr Isabella Curr, from Scotland, joined the American Christian Mission,
and worked at hospitals in Manipay and Inuvil for nearly forty years (p. 140).