Ross , Sir Ronald
(1857–1932) British physician
The son of an Indian Army officer, Ross was born in Almora, India. He originally wished to be an artist but his father was determined that he should join the Indian Medical Service. Consequently, after a medical education at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, Ross entered the Indian Medical Service in 1881.
Much of Ross's early career was spent in literary pursuits, writing poetry and verse dramas; he published some 15 literary works between 1883 and 1920. It was also during this first period in India that Ross developed his passion for mathematics. This was a lifelong interest and he published some seven titles between 1901 and 1921; in his Algebra of Space (1901) he claimed to have anticipated some of the work of A.N. Whitehead.
On leave in England in 1889, Ross took a diploma in public health and attended courses in the newly established discipline of bacteriology. He became interested in malaria and in 1894 approached Patrick Manson with a request to be shown how to detect the causative parasite of malaria, first described by Charles Laveran in 1880. With his guidance and encouragement, Manson turned out to be the major influence in Ross's scientific career; it was Manson who suggested to Ross that mosquitoes might be the vectors of malaria, and when Ross returned to India he spent the next four years researching this theory.
His first strategy, to try and demonstrate the transmission of the disease from mosquitoes to man, met with little success: attempts to infect a colleague with bites from a mosquito fed on malaria patients failed, possibly because the species he used was not a carrier of the disease. He therefore decided to study the natural history of the mosquito in more detail and by 1897 had succeeded in identifying malaria parasites (plasmodia) in the bodies ofAnopheles mosquitoes fed on blood from infected patients. Ross then attempted to show what happened to the parasite in the mosquito and how it reached a new human victim. He decided to work with avian malaria and its vector Culex fatigans, giving him a control over his experimental subjects impossible to attain with man. By 1898 he had succeeded in identifying theProteosoma parasite responsible for avian malaria in the salivary glands of the mosquito, thus proving that the parasite was transmitted to its avian host by the bite of the mosquito. Manson was able to report Ross's work to the meeting of the British Medical Association in Edinburgh and by the end of the year Italian workers under Giovanni Grassi had been able to show similar results in the Anopheles mosquito, the vector of human malaria.
In 1899 Ross resigned from the Indian Medical Service and accepted a post at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, remaining there until 1912, when he moved to London to become a consultant. During this period he spent much time on the problem of mosquito control, advising many tropical countries on appropriate strategies.
For his work on malaria Ross was awarded the 1902 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine.

Scientists. . 2011.

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