Have you ever noticed a memorial monument standing midst the cages of the birds and the animals of the Calcutta Zoological Gardens? Do you have any idea about the man to whose memory it was erected? Let us try to find it out.
Carl Louis Schwendler was born on the 18th day of May, 1938, in Torgau, Prussia, of humble parentage. Unfavourable financial condition greatly interfered the progress of his education and at one stage, he was even compelled to the drudgery of a bricklayer’s labourer during an interval of his obligatory abstention from the study. However, with his talent and diligence, he ultimately became successful in his life. He was a German electrician of repute and one of the first advocates of the Tungsten based incandescent light bulb. He served in the British India in a senior post in the Telegraph Department and also published an important textbook on telegraphs. He was involved in setting up telegraphic communication between Agra and Calcutta, by solving the problems relating to the transmission of submerged cables. He was also commissioned by the Railways to perform a feasibility study of lighting Indian Railway stations by electric lamps.
In 1867, Sir Joseph Fayrer, the then President of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, proposed a scheme to establish a Zoological Garden in Calcutta. During that time, Schwendler was also a member of the Asiatic Society and the idea was again raised by him in 1873, and also offered his service to create the nucleus of the Zoological Gardens.
In fact, Carl Louis helped a lot in the setting up of the garden in Calcutta. The zoo was finally inaugurated on January 1, 1876 by Edward VII, Prince of Wales and thrown open to the public the same year. It should be mentioned here that, the first batch of animals were from the private mini-zoo of Carl Schwendler. Initially, the zoo was maintained by Schwendler himself along with Botanist-Professor George King. The zoo witnessed rapid expansion as many more animals were gifted by Indian and British residents from all over the country.
Carl Louis Schwendler passed away on the 6th January, 1882, and was buried on the 9th, in the quiet village churchyard of Schoencberg, near Berlin. Dedicated to his memory, Carl Schwendler Memorial Monument was erected in the zoo premises in 1883.