MOSQUITOES, MALARIA AND MAN: A History of the Hostilities since 1880 by Gordon Harrison
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MOSQUITOES, MALARIA AND MAN: A History of the Hostilities since 1880

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In keeping with the alliteration of the title, one could say ""massive, monumental, impressive. . . and probably more about mosquitoes than most care to know."" But Harrison is a good writer with a novelist's feel for personalities, motivation, mise-en-scène. Part I, haft the book, is essentially a biography of Sir Ronald Ross, as improbable a Nobel laureate (1902) as one can imagine. He dreamed of being a poet or a mathematician. He had no interest at all in being a doctor, but Dad so desired. And--lesson in motivation--when he decided he might want to know more, he did. Doing service in India, he was persuaded that the mosquito might be the vector for malaria (not the ""bad air""). So he learned a little microscopy and pathology, and went about collecting bugs, sampling blood, dissecting insects, enduring malaria himself, all the while keeping up a long correspondence with a mentor in England. This is fine and suspenseful reading as Harrison describes the pitfalls, wrong leads, near misses, and fierce competition that attended malarial investigation (a match for J. B. Watson and DNA). Part II is a more straightforward account of the battle to keep mosquitoes and malaria down, once the complexities of the life cycle of the plasmodium parasite were understood. Unfortunately the story has no happy ending. Malaria is still triumphant in parts of the world; some species of mosquito are insecticideresistant, and seemingly minor changes in weather, the landscape, or movements of people can bring on an epidemic. Particularly depressing is the news that in the interests of development some Third World countries may adopt public health measures in so limited a way as to aid only those more favored already. Harrison is to be complimented for his forthright geopolitical reporting here. Indeed the book as a whole is a first-rate document of medical biography and history.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: Dutton