2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Manson, Ross, and the Material Culture of British Tropical Medicine in the Late Nineteenth Century

Shang-Jen Li

Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica

Research on malaria conducted by the British physicians Patrick Manson and Ronald Ross led to the elucidation of its mode of transmission as well as the role of the mosquito in the lifecycle of plasmodium, which was one of the most important discoveries in the history of tropical medicine.  In fact, Ross won the Noble Prize because of this research. This article investigates this famous collaboration, which was mainly conducted through correspondence between Manson in London and Ross in India, and argues that their work was based on a material culture common to nineteenth century British colonial science and medicine.  Their research and collaboration consisted of gathering specimens and conducting colonial “field work.”  Scientific data and samples were brought back from the colonies to the European metropolis, where they were further collected, classified, and systematized.  The collaboration between Manson and Ross was sustained by a gift-relationship involving the generous exchange of samples and data between researchers in the metropolis and the colony.


Keywords: malaria, colonial medicine, British Empire, gift, patronage