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Sir Patrick Manson lived from 3 October 1844 to 9 April 1922. He was a Scottish physician who was one of the first to study parasitology and came to be regarded as the founding father of tropical medicine. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Patrick Manson was born in Oldmeldum in Aberdeenshire, the son of John and Elizabeth Manson. In 1865 he was awarded his Bachelor of Medicine Degree by the University of Aberdeen. The following year he gained his Master of Surgery and his Medical Doctorate.
Immediately after qualifying Manson travelled to Formosa (now Taiwan) to take up a post as a medical officer to the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. In 1871 he transferred to Amoy, on the Chinese coast, and 13 years later he moved to Hong Kong, where he practiced from 1883 to 1889. Manson developed an early interest in tropical diseases, and in particular in the role of parasites in their transmission. His initial studies were on filaria, a small parasitic worm that causes elephantiasis: and he was able to show that mosquitoes had a key role in transmitting the worms and spreading the disease.
Manson's discovery helped inform the work of Sir Ronald Ross, who was studying the transmission of malaria in India at the time. While in Hong Kong, Manson helped found the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese, which later formed the nucleus of the University of Hong Kong. He was also the first person to import dairy cattle from Scotland to Hong Kong, starting a dairy industry there.
Manson moved to London in 1889 and in 1897 was appointed to the post of Chief Medical Officer to the Colonial Office. Amongst his early initiatives was the foundation of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, which opened in 1899. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1900, knighted in 1903 and in the following year awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of Oxford. In 1907 he became the first president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine, and retired from the colonial office in 1912. He died in London in 1922 at the age of 78.
In 1876 Patrick Manson had married Henrietta Isabella Thurbun, and they went on to have three sons and a daughter together. His daughter married one of his pupils at the London School of Tropical Medicine, Philip Bahr: and Sir Philip Manson-Bahr himself later became a leading figure in the field of tropical medicine. Sir Patrick Manson's birthplace in Oldmeldrum is marked by a blue plaque erected in his memory by the London School of Tropical Medicine.