Essays on Science and SocietyPORTRAITS OF SCIENCE

Mosquitoes Bite More Than Once

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Science  04 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5552, pp. 47-48
DOI: 10.1126/science.1068205

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Ronald Ross discovered that the plasmodium parasite--'Laveran's germ'--was transmitted by anopheline mosquitoes to human beings to cause malaria. This discovery won him a Nobel Prize in 1902, but the route to this success was by no means clear. He was an indifferent student, he liked to write novels and poems and only just managed to gain a medical qualification. Fortuitously he was mediocre enough to enter the least prestigious section of the Indian Medical Service, which put him directly in contact with the parasites that were to become his passion. Despite honours being showered on him, life after the Prize also was not straightforward, he was irrascible and his innovative mathematical and economic approaches to disease control were overlooked.