Lives of the fellows

Philip Edmund Clinton Manson-Bahr

b.5 May 1911 d.31 December 1996
BChir Cantab(1935) MRCS LRCP(1935) MRCP(1938) DTM&H(1939) MD(1948) FRCP(1959)

Philip Edmund Clinton Manson-Bahr, consultant in tropical medicine, was the grandson of Sir Patrick Manson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.379] - the ‘father of tropical medicine’ and pioneer in researching elephantiasis - lympathic filariasis. His father was Sir Philip Manson-Bahr [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.328], son-in-law of Sir Patrick and himself an authority on tropical medicine. Clinton followed in the established family tradition and became a noted tropical medicine physician in his own right. His death therefore brings this ‘tropical dynasty’ to an end - although his son continues the medical tradition.

Clinton Manson-Bahr was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge; his medical studies were subsequently undertaken at the (Royal) London Medical College. Following graduation in 1935 he was admitted to the membership of the College in 1938 (and elected FRCP in 1959); he passed the DTM&H examination in 1939 and obtained his MD in 1948. Clinton immediately joined the Colonial Medical Service - serving in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) between 1939 and 1940. Following this he served as a lieutenant-colonel in the RAMC and was an adviser to the East African Command from 1940 to 1946 -serving as a medical specialist in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). From 1948 until 1953 he was a specialist physician in Fiji and subsequently senior specialist in Kenya (1953 to 1962).

From 1962 until 1968 he was professor of clinical tropical medicine at Tulane University, USA (an appointment about which he subsequently said little). He later served as a WHO specialist adviser to the Burmese (now Myanamar) Government. Between then and his formal retirement in 1975 he was senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with honorary status at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the Dreadnought Hospital, Greenwich. Clinton was latterly consultant physician to the Overseas Development and Commonwealth Development Corporations between 1975 and 1982.

Through his collaboration with the division of insect-borne diseases in Kenya, Manson-Bahr was largely responsible for preserving the ‘tropical medicine’ tradition there; he assisted in the development of the King George VI, later the Kenyatta Hospital, and University of Nairobi Medical School. He also made important contributions in the fields of trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and other zoonotic diseases - his international standing in these fields being recognized by the award of the Gaspar Vianna medal in Brazil in 1962. The discovery of animal reservoir(s) for trypanosomiasis (the bushbuck) and the African vectors of leishmaniasis owed much to Clinton’s studies. At a time when kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis) was regarded as universally fatal, he was able to demonstrate widespread subclinical infection(s). Manson-Bahr was a pioneer in immunodiagnosis and vaccination in leishmaniasis -introducing new concepts in relation to cross-protective immunity and abortive infections. Other studies involved the epidemiology of tanapox (a viral infection distinct from smallpox) in Kenya, and histoplasmosis - in East African caves. He was also involved in studies on marine typhus, plague, leptospirosis, hydatid disease (involving the hyena, jackal and wild dog), trichinosis (bush pigs and other wild carnivores) and other zoonoses in Kenya. He edited (jointly) Manson’s tropical diseases (17th-19th editions, London, Bailliere Tindall, 1972, 1982, 1987) as had his grandfather and father before him; the first edition was published in 1898.

In his latter years, Clinton will be best remembered for his outstanding services to the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (where he is sorely missed), in which he held all of the senior appointments - with the exception of that of president: honorary secretary (1973 to 1979), vice-president (1979 to 1981) and member of the editorial committee of Transactions (for many years). In addition, he was the Society’s honorary archivist. He received the Manson medal (the Society’s highest award) in 1995 and in the same year was made an honorary fellow. He will be impossible to replace in tropical medicine circles - where he formed an essential link with the pioneers of the specialty; his readily given advice on any matter relating to the history of this discipline was frequently sought.

Clinton was in many respects a larger than life figure; a massive man physically - with a loud, booming voice. Despite this, he was always a model of modesty, and at times of self-deprecation. Fellows of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene will retain memories of his splendid address of thanks to HRH the Princess Royal - when she graciously inaugurated the newly refurbished George Carmichael Low auditorium at the Society’s premises - Manson House, Portland Place - on 3 October 1994 - the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Patrick.

He married Joan (née Mclnnes) in Kenya in January 1943 and they had a daughter and a son (also a medical practitioner, though not in the ‘tropical medicine’ specialty). Major hobbies (like so many tropical physicians before him -including his father) were wildlife and ornithology. These pursuits almost certainly had a ‘catalytic’ effect during his early days of service in East Africa.

Although he lived in the shadow of his distinguished forebears, Clinton added immeasurably to the specialty into which he had been born. He died from a presumed heart attack aged 85.

G C Cook

[Brit.med.J., 1997,314,609-10; The Times, 3 Feb 1997; The Guardian, 16 Jan 1997; Bull.trop.Med.lnst.Hlth, 1997,5(1)4]

(Volume X, page 328)

<< Back to List