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College hunt for birth date bears fruit

Calcutta, June 19: Bethune College has managed to ferret out the date of birth of John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, 150 years after his death.

Students of the college will finally be able to observe the birthday of Bethune — the man their institution is named after — from next year.

After extensive research, the college authorities today said it has been concluded that Bethune was born on July 12, 1801.

The school and the college in north Calcutta named after him only observed the founder’s death anniversary on August 12 in the absence of any valid record of the academic’s birth.

The college souvenir, released by Governor Viren J. Shah at a programme organised to launch the institution’s 125th anniversary celebrations, announced Bethune’s birthday.

The first college for girls in India, Bethune College was set up in 1879 as a continuation of the school founded by Bethune in 1849. The college was set up to provide an opportunity for higher education to Kadambini Bose, a pupil of Bethune School who had successfully completed the entrance examination of Calcutta University and was among the first woman graduates in the country.

A team of college teachers initiated a research last year to trace the date of birth of Bethune.

“We felt extremely pained to observe only the death anniversary of Bethune, who dedicated his life to promote women’s education in Bengal. This feeling had driven us to begin the research. We are happy that we have been able to confirm the date of birth of Bethune,” said Uttara Chakraborty, an assistant professor of history and a driving force in the research.

The state archives, Bethune’s will, libraries of universities across India, England and Scotland and the Internet were the prime sources of information in the date hunt. Chakraborty said the descendants of Bethune in Scotland were also contacted.

“The Trinity College, Cambridge, has confirmed the date is correct,” said Chakraborty.

Bethune died in 1851, two years after he established Bethune School.

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