Patrick Manson (1844–1922), the man identified as the "father of tropical medicine," was an Aberdonian Scot who studied medicine in his home city of Aberdeen and in Edinburgh. Following his graduation in 1865, he went straight into the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, first in Formosa and later in Amoy. His work in China covered a remarkable range and included many original discoveries about the causes and suitable control measures for some of the tropical diseases that were so common at that time. This included work on several intestinal parasites; skin diseases caused by fungus infections; and tropical sprue, a debilitating bowel disease that causes or is associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
In 1877, Manson discovered that the crippling disease known as elephantiasis was caused by a filarial worm and transmitted by mosquitoes—the first demonstration that mosquitoes transmitted diseases. After returning to Britain in 1890 he established a consultant medical practice in London and became a medical teacher and adviser to the British Colonial Office. His work included the reorganization of the West African medical services. In 1898 he published a seminal work, Tropical Diseases, and in 1899 he founded the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Previously, he had founded a school of tropical medicine in Hong Kong.
Manson influenced a whole generation of British medical scientists who studied and specialized in tropical diseases. The greatest of these was Ronald Ross, to whom he passed on his hypothesis that mosquitoes must be the vector that transmitted malaria. Manson's name is immortalized several times in the taxonomy of the pathogens he identified. He received many honors and awards, including a knighthood.
JOHN M. LAST