Ronald Ross (1857–1932) was a British medical scientist, entomologist, and epidemiologist. Born in India, he studied medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London and then went to India to embark upon a career in the Indian Medical Service, where he focused his attention on malaria. On a return visit to Britain he met the tropical disease specialist Patrick Manson, discoverer of the mosquito-borne transmission of filariasis (parasitic worms), who urged him to concentrate on the quest for the mechanism of mosquito transmission of malaria.
Ross worked in the south of India around Madras, where malaria was highly endemic and often fatal. After much careful and painstaking work, he discovered that only the small, inconspicuous female anopheline mosquitoes carried the malaria parasite. The males lived entirely on fluids from succulent plants, and culicine mosquitoes did not carry malaria parasites. During later work in Sierra Leone and in Ismailia, Egypt, Ross did microdissections to show the development of the parasite in the female mosquito's stomach and its migration to the salivary glands, publishing his findings in a series of papers and monographs.
In addition to laboratory-based and microscopic studies of mosquitoes, Ross developed the first mathematical models of malaria epidemiology, factoring into these models all the relevant variables relating to the life cycles of the malaria parasite in humans and mosquitoes. His models allowed for variations in ambient temperatures and other factors that influenced both the mosquito's breeding period and the time taken for parasites to mature. He received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1902 for his work on malaria. The Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases, later absorbed into the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was established to house his work in his later years in England. In his spare time, Ross wrote poetry, plays, and an autobiography. He received many other honor besides the Nobel Prize, including a knighthood.
JOHN M. LAST