The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1902
Born: 13 May 1857, Almora, India
Died: 16 September 1932, Putney Heath, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: University College, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: “for his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it”
Prize share: 1/1
Ronald Ross was born in Almora, India, and educated in Great Britain. In 1881 he became a military medical officer in India, and it was there that he began studying how malaria was propagated. Ross began working in West Africa in 1899 to find a way to combat malaria. He was a multifaceted person interested in poetry and music as well as mathematics. He used the latter to create mathematical models for how the disease is spread, something that became a useful tool for epidemiology.
In the tropics malaria is a common disease that causes high fever and other symptoms. After Alphonse Laveran detected the parasite that causes the disease in the blood of infected people, there were attempts to chart the single-celled organism’s life cycle. Since the parasite was found only in blood, researchers suspected that it was spread by blood-sucking mosquitoes and spent part of its life cycle in them. Ronald Ross had mosquitos suck blood from malaria-infected people, and in 1897 he found the malaria parasite at a certain stage of life in the stomach of a certain species of mosquito.