Ronald Ross: Christian Doctor who Discovered that Mosquitoes caused Malaria

One of the great medical discoveries has been that malaria is caused by mosquitoes, and specifically the microscopic parasite they carry. Before this discovery in the 19th century, it was believed that malaria was caused by bad air caused by rotting or filthy material. Hence the name of the disease, mala aria. The doctor who finally discovered that malaria was spread by mosquitoes was Ronald Ross, who was also a man of devout Christian faith. He went out as a young doctor in the Indian Army to find the parasite’s vector – the disease’s carrier – in the late 19th century. He worked, examining samples of mosquitoes for the parasite. Finally, on 2oth August 1897 he found the parasite in the stomach tissues of the anopheles mosquito. He had in fact nearly finished his research for the evening, and had frustrated by his apparent lack of success. His identification of the parasite in that mosquito made its identification as the disease’s vector certain. Ross was keenly aware how much this would improve the lives of millions of people in the future. He therefore wrote a series of verses praising the Lord for the discovery in a letter home to his wife.

Sadly, malaria is still responsible for millions of deaths throughout the world, and there are real concerns about the emergence of strains that are resistant to the current drugs. Nevertheless, it is doctors and researchers like Dr. Ross, whether they are Christians are not, who have saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost to the disease, and who are our best hope for combating it in the future.

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