Sir Ronald Ross

As well as being the first British Nobel laureate, Ronald Ross was also, paradoxically, the first Nobel laureate to have been born outside Europe.

He was born in 1857 in Almora, in northern India, where his father was a General in the Indian Army. Ronald was sent home at the age of eight and educated in England; he qualified as a surgeon in 1879 and as an apothecary in 1881, after which he joined the Indian Medical Service (the military medical service in British India).

In 1895 he observed the early stages of the development of the malaria parasite in the stomach of a mosquito. In 1897 he paid a malaria patient to allow him to be bitten by mosquitoes, and later identified the malaria parasite in the gut of the mosquito.

In 1898 he was transferred to Calcutta (Kolkata), which was malaria–free. Persuaded to carry out his research on birds rather than humans, he discovered that the malaria parasite was stored in the mosquitoes' salivary glands and transferred to the birds during biting. This established the complete life cycle of the malaria parasite.

In 1899 he resigned from Indian Medical Service and returned to England to become a lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He continued to work on the prevention of malaria, and in 1902 (the same year that he was awarded the Nobel prize) he was appointed as Professor and Chair of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool. From 1912 to 1917 he was Physician for Tropical Diseases at King's College Hospital in London, and simultaneously held the Chair of Tropical Sanitation in Liverpool; and from 1918 to 1926 he worked as Consultant in Malaria in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.

The Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases was founded in 1926, and named in recognition of Ross' work. It was established at Bath House, at Putney Heath in south London (adjacent to Wimbledon Common). Ross served as its Director–in–Chief until his death in 1932. The Institute was incorporated into the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1934, eventually becoming its Department of Tropical Hygiene.

© Haydn Thompson 2017