Alas, the golden age of exploration is over with the idea of space exploration offering only a faint glimmer of hope in a dreary un-romantic world. To have been alive in the days when frontiers were truly being pushed back would have been amazing. Clan Ross is lucky enough to count many explorers among its ranks, for example James Clark Ross and John Ross who both explored the Antarctic. For me, warmer climes have always been more appealing thanks to the lack of risk of frost-bite. Of course, warmer climates have their own host of problems to contend with...
One of the biggest problems encountered by explorers of the golden age was, of course, malaria – the British East India Company encountered so many problems with the disease that they started issuing a quinine laced tonic to their men (quinine was known to combat the symptoms of malaria). Unfortunately the quinine based medicine was so bitter and unpleasant tasting that the men were desperate for a way to make it drinkable, this eventually led to the creation of the gin and tonic
- something we can all, no doubt, be grateful for.
This trivia aside, malaria was and still is one of the world’s biggest killers – it has been suggested that malaria could have been the cause of the deaths of half the humans that have ever lived with roughly half the world’s population still at risk of contracting the illness. Malaria, then, is not a problem of the past but a very real peril to millions of people worldwide. However, thanks to pioneering research in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, we have come a long way in our understanding of the illness, its treatment and how to prevent its spread.
Sir Ronald Ross
Sir Ronald Ross was one such pioneering researcher. Born in Almora, India in 1857, Ross was a true polymath with a diverse range of passions such as: poetry, music, literature, fine moustaches, mathematics and medicine. Although Ross wanted to be a writer - he wrote several novels and countless poems throughout his life - it was in the field of medicine that he would gain his fame, specifically in the study of malaria.
The name malaria
comes from the Latin for Bad Air as it was thought that the disease was transmitted through foul smelling air in swampy areas – the miasma theory
. This idea was fairly prevalent throughout the world, not only in regard to Malaria but to all diseases. In the late 1800s it was observed that those suffering from Malaria had parasites in their blood. Sir Ronald Ross discovered that these parasites could also be found in the stomach of mosquitoes and that it was through contact with mosquitoes that malaria was transmitted. Ross dedicated his life to the study of Malaria and its transmission and as such his work has been responsible for saving countless thousands of lives. For his work in this field. Ronald Ross was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1902 – the first Briton to win the award in any category.
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Balnagown Castle, the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan Ross[/caption]
While Ronald Ross’ achievements have done a lot to reduce the number of deaths caused by malaria each year and are rightly celebrated, there are still around 212 million cases of malaria a year which cause an estimated 490,000 deaths. If you want more information on this disease click here or here. As for members of Clan Ross, you can be proud of your notable ancestor whose grandson is the current chief of the clan.