Lives of the fellows

Philip Henry (Sir) Manson-Bahr

b.26 November 1881 d.19 November 1966
Kt(1941) CMG(1937) DSO MRCS LRCP(1907) MA MB BChir Cantab(1908) DTM&H(1909) MD(1914) MRCP(1914) FRCP(1923) Hon MD Malaya(1953)

Philip Henry Bahr was born in Liverpool. He was the son of a cotton merchant, and his mother’s father, Philip Jacob Blessig, had also been a cotton merchant and international banker in Liverpool. He went to Queenbank Preparatory School in Liverpool and afterwards to Rugby School. From there he went to Trinity College, Cambridge and took the Natural Science Tripos, with zoology as his special subjects. It was here that he came in contact with Professor Alfred Newton, the great ornithologist and for a while, acted as his assistant. He developed an interest in ornithology which became lifelong. He joined the British Ornithologists’ Union in 1904, being, at the time of his death, one of the most senior members of the Union. His interest in zoology also continued throughout his life and many of his later studies in parasitology and tropical medicine had a zoological aspect. Thus in 1929 he addressed the British Ornithologists’ Club on "Ornithology as an aid to medicine" and in 1954 he twice addressed the same organisation on birds and parasites of birds. Much of his early work in Fiji was concerned with filariasis and its zoological vectors especially Aedes pseudoscutellans.

The clinical part of his undergraduate medical training was done at the London Hospital, from which he qualified in 1907. He was then appointed house physician to that hospital and it was there that he met Nurse Edith Margaret Manson, daughter of Sir Patrick Manson the ‘Father of Tropical Medicine’. They were married in 1909 and she was his companion and help till she died in 1948.

Almost immediately after his marriage he went to Fiji in charge of the Stanley Research Expedition. He there worked on dysentery and filariasis. The aperiodic forms of Wuchereria species found in the Pacific region remained one of his lifelong interests. In Fiji he extracted filarial worms from the epitrochlear lymph nodes of patients, and also undertook some self-experimentation by inoculating himself with these worms. He was able to show that Aedes pseudoscutellaris could, under experimental conditions, carry the forms of the parasite infective to man. In Fiji too, he was able to isolate Shigella shiga from house flies.

During the first world war he served in Egypt, Palestine and the Dardanelles. He had much dysentery to cope with in the Dardanelles campaign. In Palestine he established malaria diagnostic units in each of the army’s six divisions. These units examined 40,000 blood slides during the campaign and for this work Captain Bahr was awarded the DSO in 1917. He encountered cholera in Egypt in 1918 and in the Middle East also studied 925 cases of pellagra among prisoners.

After the war he was appointed, first to the staff of the Albert Dock Hospital and then to that of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. He became a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and from 1937 to 1947 was Director of the School’s Department of Clinical Tropical Medicine. He was consultant physician to the Colonial Office and the Crown Agents from 1927 to 1947.

He wrote many papers on filariasis, the dysenteries and sprue and edited Manson’s Tropical Diseases from 1921, when the seventh edition was published, until 1960 when the 15th edition appeared. It was at the wish of his father-in-law, Sir Patrick Manson, that he changed his name to Manson-Bahr.

His work brought him many honours; he was awarded the Bernhardt Nocht Medal of the Tropeninstitut, Hamburg in 1937: the Mary Kingsley Medal of the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1949 and the Brumpt Prize, Paris in 1957. He was appointed CMG in 1937 and knighted in 1941. At Cambridge in 1913 he was awarded the Horton Smith prize and in 1953 received an Honorary MD of the University of Malaya.

He was an enthusiastic lecturer and teacher, his classes were always popular and made interesting by his fund of humorous anecdotes. He had a high sense of drama and a powerful voice with which to transmit his forthright deliberations. He was President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from 1946 to 1948 and of the Medical Society of London in 1946.

In all his teaching and conversation he was fond of recalling the novel and unusual, and he brought out the peculiarities of a case with rare gusto and a wealth of personal reminiscence which left an indelible memory both of Sir Philip and of the incident.

He made many contributions to medical history, particularly in relation to his father-in-law, for whom he had tremendous regard and who clearly had a great formative influence on him. Sir Philip was responsible for founding the Manson Oration at the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, in memory of his father-in-law.

He was an accomplished artist, particularly in water colours and became President of the Medical Art Society. He himself did many of the illustrations for the text book which he edited.

His first wife died in 1948 and in 1950 he married Edith Mary Grossmith who survived him. One of his sons, Dr. P.D.C. Manson-Bahr, followed him into tropical medicine and after serving in the Pacific Area and in East Africa, became Professor of Tropical Medicine at the School of Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA before returning to Britain to take up an appointment as a senior lecturer in the department of which his father had been Director at one time, i.e. the Department of Clinical Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He is remembered as a great teacher and physician, a fine artist and ornithologist and a very warm hearted and kindly person.

AW Woodruff

[Brit.med.J., 1966, 2, 1332, 1397, 1461: Lancet, 1966, 2, 1198; Times, 23 Nov 1966; Lond. Clinic med. J., 1967, 8, 55; Inc. Liverp. School Trop. Med., 1966-67, 30-31; Ibis, 1967, 109, 447-448; Old Rugbeian Soc. Letter 173, Jan 1968]

(Volume VI, page 328)

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