Sir Patrick Manson – The Father of Tropical Medicine

Manson teaching at the Albert Dock Seamen‘s Hospital 1901

On October 3, 1844, Scottish physician Sir Patrick Manson was born. He made important discoveries in parasitology, and was the founder of the field of tropical medicine. He was the first to identify an insect for the spread of infection.

Patrick Manson began studying medicine at the University of Aberdeen in 1860 and continued his career at a psychiatric institute after graduating. However, Manson desired to travel and practiced medicine mostly in Taiwan and China. There, he was probably the first to notice filarial worms and microfilariae in the blood of infected people with elephantiasis, and discovered that they could be picked up by blood-sucking mosquitoes and transmitted to others. Especially in Amoy, China, Manson was able to collect information on tropical diseases which helped him to later develop ground breaking theories and improve the malaria situation. [1,3]

Based on his findings in Taiwan and China, Manson continued his studies in London, where he was appointed physician to the Seamen’s Hospital Society. He published his famous malaria hypothesis ‘On the Nature and Significance of the Crescentic and Flagellated Bodies in Malarial Blood’ in 1894 in the British Medical Journal. He explained that mosquitoes supported the parasite development and described the process on how the malaria parasite acquired infectivity towards humans, passing it from person to person. Ronald Ross was then inspired by Manson‘s work and he was later able to discover the life cycle of the malaria parasite. [1]

Patrick Manson was appointed medical advisor to the Colonial Office in 1897 and was soon appointed Lecturer in Tropical Diseases to the Royal Free Hospital for Women. The scientist continued publishing works on tropical diseases and received several honors and awards for his achievements including his research on filaria, his discovery of the lung fluke, a parasitic worm in dogs and many more. On this day, Manson is widely considered the Father of Tropical Medicine. He passed away on April 9, 1922. [2]

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture on malaria by Professor Francis Cox at Gresham College.

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