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Ronald Ross: British Doctor Who Discovered the Transmission of Malaria
Ronald Ross was born on May 13, 1857, as the son of Sir Campbell Claye Grant Ross, a Scottish officer in the British Indian Army. Ronald began his medical studies at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London in 1875, and in 1881, he joined the Indian Medical Service. He began researching malaria in 1892.
In 1894, Ronald conducted an experimental investigation of Laveran and Manson's claim that mosquitoes are involved in disease transmission in India. Ross succeeded after two and a half years of failure in demonstrating the life cycle of malaria parasites in mosquitos, so establishing Laveran and Manson's hypothesis.
In 1899, he enrolled at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which Sir Alfred Jones directed. He was promptly transferred to West Africa to continue his research, where he discovered the mosquito species that transmit the fatal African fever. Since then, the School has worked tirelessly to promote health, particularly to reduce malaria in West Africa.
Many notable authorities have corroborated and assisted Ross' research. Ross was elected a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1901, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society, where he served as Vice-President from 1911 to 1913. In addition, the King of Great Britain made him a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of Bath in 1902. In 1911, he was promoted to Knight Commander of the same Order. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Leopold II in Belgium.
In 1902, a campaign was launched to honour the School of Tropical Medicine's founder and Chairman, Sir Alfred Jones, by establishing a Chair of Tropical Medicine in University College, which would be affiliated with the School. The movement was welcomed with enthusiastic support, and enough money was rapidly raised to establish Sir Alfred Jones' Chair of Tropical Medicine.
Ross was appointed to the Chair in 1902. He maintained the position until 1912, when he departed Liverpool to become a Physician for Tropical Diseases at Kings College Hospital in London, a position he held concurrently with the Chair of Tropical Sanitation in Liverpool. He held these positions until 1917, when he was appointed Consultant in Malariology to the War Office, his service in this capacity, particularly in connection with the epidemic malaria that was then afflicting combatant troops, was recognised by his elevation to the rank of Knight Commander, St. Michael and St. George, in 1918.
He was later named Malaria Consultant to the Ministry of Pensions. He was appointed Director in Chief of the Ross Institute and Hospital of Tropical Diseases and Hygiene in 1926, a position created by admirers of his work, and he held it until his death. He was also the Society of Tropical Medicine's President. Ross' primary concern during this active career was the implementation of malaria preventive strategies in many locations around the world. He conducted surveys and established initiatives in various locations, including West Africa, the Suez Canal zone, Greece, Mauritius, Cyprus, and territories impacted by the 1914-1918 war. He also founded organisations for malaria control in India and Ceylon's planting industries.
He made numerous contributions to malaria epidemiology and methods of survey and assessment, but perhaps his most significant contribution was the development of mathematical models for the study of its epidemiology, which began in his report on Mauritius in 1908. The report was elaborated in his work Prevention of Malaria in 1911 and was further elaborated in a more generalised form in scientific papers published by the Royal Society in 1915 and 1916. These publications reflected a deep mathematical curiosity that extended beyond epidemiology and led him to make significant contributions to both pure and applied mathematics.
Those relating to pathometry are the most well-known, and they still serve as the foundation for much of the epidemiological understanding of insect-borne diseases. Ross's significant contribution, the discovery of malaria transmission by the mosquito, was continued through these publications. Still, he also found time and mental energy for many other hobbies, being a poet, playwright, writer, and painter. His literary compositions, particularly his poetic works, won him widespread acclaim, despite his medical and mathematical credentials.
Ross received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for his work on malaria. In addition, he got other honours, including Honorary Membership in major European and other continents' learned societies. In 1910, he received an honorary M.D. degree during the Caroline Institute's centennial celebration in Stockholm. While his vivacity and an unwavering pursuit of truth irritated some, he had a large network of friends in Europe, Asia, and America who admired him for his personality as much as his intelligence.
Ross married Rosa Bessie Bloxam in 1889. Ronald and Charles were their sons, and Dorothy and Sylvia were their daughters. Ross survived his wife's death in 1931 until a year later, when he died on September 16, 1932, at the Ross Institute in London, following a long illness.