Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Collection of the month: Sir Patrick Manson

Sir Patrick Manson's name on the frieze above the entrance to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

This month we are focusing on the collection of Sir Patrick Manson (1844-1922), who founded the School in 1899 and is known as the ‘father of tropical medicine’.

Sir Patrick was born in Scotland in 1844 and studied medicine at Aberdeen University. In 1866, he moved to China where he became Medical Officer for the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs in Formosa (Taiwan) and later in Amoy. It was whilst working in Amoy in 1878 that Sir Patrick discovered filarial worms, which can cause elephantiasis, in the tissues of mosquitoes. In 1883, he move to Hong Kong and with the doctor James Cantlie he established a medical school in 1887. The medical school later developed into the Medical Faculty of the University of Hong Kong.

Sir Patrick moved to London in 1889 and became a doctor at the Seamen’s Hospital Society in 1892. In 1897, he was appointed Medical Advisor to the Colonial Office and played an important role in the development of tropical medicine as a discipline and in the founding of the London School of Tropical Medicine in 1899. He worked at the School until 1912 when he retired due to poor health.

Sir Patrick is perhaps best known as the person who introduced and encouraged Sir Ronald Ross to investigate the theory that malaria was transmitted between humans by mosquitoes, which Sir Ronald proved in 1897 (see collection of the month for April 2010).

The School’s Archives hold a fascinating collection of papers relating to Manson’s career, including: his dairies which contain notes on mosquitoes as carriers of malaria and his discovery of filaria in mosquitoes; correspondence with Charles Wilberforce Daniels, Herbert Edward Durham and James Michelli on tropical medicine; photographs; research papers; medical examination forms for candidates working in British colonies and protectorates and scientific artifacts and medals.

If you would like to find out more about the records of Sir Patrick Manson or any of the collections in our archive visit our webpage here or email us at

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