Institute for Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur

I was recently looking through an old cartoon book by Lat who is one of Malaysia’s most famous cartoonists. He is now semi-retired but for many years his cartoons provided an insight into social and political aspects of Malaysia’s culture. (They are not that funny if you are unfamiliar with the current events of that era).

From it's a Lat Lat Lat World

I had not been to Jalan Raja Muda (depicted in this cartoon) and I was curious to see what was there so I went along to find out.

To be frank, there is not a great deal of interest for the sightseer on this street. There are still a few old hotels but I cannot imagine today’s MPs would wish to stay in them.

Hotels on Jalan Raja Muda

On the other side of the road is KL Hospital, the Heart Institute, medical colleges and staff and student hostels.

The original IMR building

On the corner with Jalan Pahang is the Institute of Medical Research (IMR). This was set up in 1900 at the instigation of Sir Frank Swettenham who was the Resident General of the Federated Malay States. KL was plagued with tropical diseases such as beri-beri and malaria at the time and Dr. Hamilton Wright, a pathologist from the London School of Tropical Medicine, was appointed as the Institute’s first Director.

His successor, Dr. C. W. Daniels, wrote five volumes of studies on the Malayan mosquito (and you thought your job was boring!).

IMR Past Directors

Subsequent Directors included these four: (clockwise) William Fletcher, Allen Neave Kingsbury, Raymond Lewthwaite and K.Sato. Sato was one of two Japanese Directors during the war years 1942-1945. They needed to keep the IMR going during the War as there was a breakdown in disease control and KL suffered a malaria epidemic at that time.

Since Independence, the focus of the IMR has expanded into other areas such as cancer, stem cell research, allergies, diabetes and genetic diseases in addition to tropical diseases. Many new buildings have been added but one of the older blocks, a heritage building dating from 1928 is now a Biomedical Museum.

Biomedical Museum

Among the Museum’s odd assortment of exhibits are antique lab equipment, reptiles in jars of formaldehyde, stuffed rodents, giant models of mites and even some macabre human foetuses preserved in bottles.


You can find more details about the Biomedical Museum on my website.