Sir Patrick Manson (1844-1922)
Sir Patrick was a parasitologist. What’s that, you may ask? It’s someone who studies parasites, those pesky organisms that feed on others, like tapeworms, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.
Sir Patrick was Scottish but spent much of his life as a doctor in Asia. While working in Formosa (modern-day Taiwan), he discovered that mosquitoes were responsible for causing elephantiasis – a nasty condition that eventually makes you look a bit like ... an elephant. Then, while working in Hong Kong between 1883 and 1889, and discovering that local doctors couldn’t distinguish between typhoid and malaria, he began researching into what made these two diseases different. Around this time, he became a leading member of a founding committee for the College of Medicine for Chinese in Hong Kong. This developed into the medical faculty of the University of Hong Kong. With several businessmen, he also set up a dairy farm in Pokfulam in order to breed imported cattle and supply fresh milk to the territory. This farm later became known as the Dairy Farm Company.
Sir Patrick went back to Britain in 1889, where he worked at a Seamen’s Hospital and came across all kinds of tropical diseases. It was around this time that he published a paper proposing that malaria was caused by mosquitoes. In 1900, he conducted an experiment to confirm this: by allowing mosquitoes to feed on his son! Sure enough, within fifteen days, the parasites could clearly be seen in his son’s blood.
For this discovery, Sir Patrick was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. He was also awarded a GCMG (the UK’s highest order of chivalry) and people began to call him “Sir”.
Sir Patrick retired to Ireland and spent his old age fishing. He’s now regarded as the “Father of Tropical Diseases”.
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