Lives of the fellows

Patrick (Sir) Manson

b.3 October 1844 d.9 April 1922
GCMG(1912) KCMG(1903) CMG(1900) MB CM Aberd(1865) MD Hon LLD Aberd Hon DSc Oxon FRCP(1895) FRS

Patrick Manson was born at Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, the second son of John Manson, laird of Fingask and bank manager, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Patrick Blaikie. He received his early education at the Gymnasium and the West End Academy, Aberdeen, and, after a period of apprenticeship with an engineering firm, studied medicine at Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities. Graduating as M.B, C.M, with highest honours, at Aberdeen in 1865, he served in a number of junior hospital appointments, including one at Durham County Asylum, and a year later went out to Formosa as a medical officer in the service of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. In 1871 he moved to Amoy and was put in charge of a missionary society’s hospital. Here, during the next twelve years, interrupted only by some months of study in England in 1874-75, he conducted an intensive research into the life-history of the filaria found in the blood of sufferers from elephantiasis. He became convinced that the cause of the infection was a transmitting, biting and blood-sucking insect, which acted as an intermediate host of the filaria at some stage of its development. This he first guessed and then proved to be a mosquito.

After a further spell of leave in England, Manson began in 1885 to practise in Hong Kong, where he founded a medical school for Chinese students, acting himself as its dean and lecturer on medicine. He retired to Scotland in 1889 but was forced by financial necessity to set up in consulting practice in London a year later. He was enabled, by his appointment as physician to the Seamen’s Hospital Society, to resume his researches on tropical diseases in 1892. His second major achievement was to establish, by analogy with the filaria, that the malaria parasite in process of transmission enjoyed a similar intermediate host. It was left to Ronald Ross, inspired by Manson’s inductive reasoning and dynamic enthusiasm, to relate the life-history of the malaria parasite and to identify the species of mosquito that acted as the transmitting agent.

Manson became in 1894 lecturer on tropical diseases at St. George’s Hospital — the first appointment of its kind in London — and four years later assumed the same duties at Charing Cross Hospital. In 1896 he delivered the Goulstonian Lectures at the Royal College of Physicians, and in 1898 published his chief work, Tropical Diseases: a Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates. He was appointed in 1895 medical adviser to the Colonial Office, and, in this capacity, in association with Joseph Chamberlain, reformed the prevailing system of colonial medical reports, reorganised the West African medical service, and founded, in 1899, the London School of Tropical Medicine. He was created C.M.G. in 1900, K.C.M.G. in 1903, and G.C.M.G. in 1912. He retired from practice in 1913 but continued to travel abroad, to take a deep interest in the School and to act as an inspiring guide to his successors in the field of tropical medicine. His main recreation was fishing in Scotland and Ireland. He married in 1875 Henrietta Isabella, daughter of Captain James Ptolemy Thurburn, R.N, of Norwood, and had three sons and three daughters. He died in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1922; B.M.J., 1922; Nature, 6 May 1922; D.N.B., 1922-30, 560; P. H. Manson-Bahr and A. Alcock, The Life and Work of Sir Patrick Manson, 1927]

(Volume IV, page 379)

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