Generations of Medical Missionaries

Author Melinda Penner Published on 06/12/2014

Rev. Dr. John Scudder, Sr., founded the first Western Medical Mission in Asia in Ceylon in 1819. He also founded a family of medical missionaries whose combined service covers four generations, 42 members, and 1100 years of service, mostly in India.

Scudder, Sr., studied medicine at Princeton University and practiced in New York City, but then became convinced he could serve God best by practicing in Ceylon, and later India. He was especially effective at treating cholera and yellow fever. In 1836, he started a printing press in Madras, India, to print Bibles. He and his wife had six children; all of them became medical missionaries in India.

His son Henry Scudder was involved in translating the Bible, books, and tracts in Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu. He founded a dispensary and practiced medicine. After a stint as a pastor in the U.S., he worked in Japan for the last years of his life.

Another son Silas Scudder founded a hospital and dispensary in Ranipet, India, and had a large outdoor practice treating people. The hospital had such a high standard of care that the Madras government closed their own dispensary and encouraged people to go to the missionary hospital.

The third generation of Scudders include Ida Sophia Scudder, who didn’t intend to become a missionary, but was moved by three women who died in childbirth. She opened a clinic for women at Vellore, and later founded a medical school for women, the Vellore Christian Medical College. She became so well known that a letter addressed “Dr. Ida, India” would be delivered to her. A commemorative stamp was issued in her honor in 2000.

Ida’s brother Dr. John Scudder specialized in blood transfusion and worked with Dr. Charles Drew to start a plasma transfusion project during World War 2.

Ida’s sister Ethel Scudder and her husband became medical missionaries in Iraw, Kuwait, and Oman. Other family members followed in their footsteps.

Ida’s niece Ida Belle Scudder took over her work at the hospital and school in Vellore, and founded the diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy departments there. She oversaw the transition of the school to be coeducational and its affiliation with the University of Madras. An essay contest in her honor continues to this day; the essays focus on her values of service.

Ida’s other niece, Marilyn, was head of the eye department at a hospital in Mvuni, Tanzania.

You can read more about the Scudder family here.