Odds and quads

November 26, 2009

This is the box used by Sir Patrick Manson, the pioneering Scottish parasitologist, to bring infected mosquitoes to London from Rome in 1901.

Those that survived the journey were allowed to feed on humans, including Sir Patrick's son, who were duly infected with malaria.

It was this bizarre experiment that provided the evidence that the disease was carried by insects and not by a mysterious poisonous mist or "miasma".

Sir Patrick (1844-1922) was one of the founding fathers of tropical medicine, and his box forms part of the extensive historical collection held by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Other exhibits include the "yearly bills of mortality" covering the period from 1657 to 1758, which allow us to track the death toll of the plague and the Great Fire of London; John Snow's original 1849 pamphlet explaining the "communication of cholera"; and the definitive 1950 paper that established the link between smoking and lung cancer.

The significance of the campaign to eradicate malaria is also reflected in the gilded statue of a mosquito on the balcony above the school's main entrance.

Send suggestions for this new series on the sector's treasures, oddities and curiosities to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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