The Lesser Known Discovery Of Malariologist Ronald Ross | Polymath Studies

Those who have some familiarity with Ronald Ross may credit him for the discovery of the connection between malaria and mosquitoes, however that is bit of a misconception. It was really his mentor Dr. Patrick Manson who discovered that link, however he could not carry on with the research and decided to let Ross continue it and take credit for it.

As a polymath, Ronald Ross exceled in malariology but also math. So he decided to create an interdisciplinary approach to containing the malaria outbreaks that were happening in India during the time he was sent there. He would devise the method of pathometry. He would calculate the likelihood of infectivity among a specific group who lived in the same area for any number of times. This allowed him to administer any necessary vaccinations wherever most needed.

Pathometry sounds like the precursor of contact-tracing, since it concerned itself with finding the cluster of people who are most liable to developing a disease depending on how much the disease is transmittable and whether anyone in that cluster developed the disease.

Although malaria continues to be a problem in the modern world, Ross contributed to the medical community through this method. It is a testament that the complicated problems of the world required complicated thinking. Ronald Ross provided that type of thinking through his polymathy.


  • Nye, Edwin R. and Mary E. Gibson. “Ronald Ross: Malariologist and Polymath: A Biography.” St. Martin’s Press. 1997.

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