In 1897, five years after he started working on malaria, Ross established the life cycles of the mosquito. He proved the hypothesis of his predecessors Alphonse Laveran and Patrick Manson. Laveran would later win the 1907 Nobel Prize for his work.
But he wasn’t the only one working on the subject – Giovanni Grassi was working on the life cycles of mosquitoes at the same time and came to the same conclusions as Ross. It is hard to determine who made the discovery first, but it is Ross’ name that is now attached to the mosquito/malaria story. Understandably, the rivalry between the two was bitter.
Ross worked mainly in India where he was born, in a primitive bungalow laboratory equipped only with a microscope to do his research.
The only treatment for malaria at the time was quinine from cinchona bark. Ross’ discovery meant that the carriers of the disease, malaria, could be targeted for the first time.
Ross was knighted in 1911 and 1926 became Director of the Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London, which was founded in his honour. Every three years it awards the awards the Ronald Ross medal to those who make outstanding contributions to research or other work in tropical public health or tropical medicine.