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4 Making Imperial Science British Science The Discovery of the Transmission of Malaria 86 CHAPTER 4 ftS Manson's work on the life cycle ofthe filaria worm shows, metropolitan ~ cultural institutions, such as the library of the British Museum and the Victorian medical press, played a critical role in mediating the construction of knowledge about the empire. Still, it is important to appreciate that imperial medical science was not marked offfrom British science as qualitatively different . On the contrary, the very centrality of metropolitan institutions in making imperial science allowed its strategic representation as British science. Acritical moment in this cultural transformation was the internationalization of the discovery of the Plasmodium malariae parasite as the cause of malaria disease . By the time Manson returned to Britain in 1889, the cause of malaria had ceased being a research problem of the periphery. To be sure, skepticism greeted the 1880 discovery of "parasitic elements" in the blood by Alphonse Laveran in French colonial Algeria (Figure 9). Within a decade, however, there was hardly any question about the existence of the Plasmodium malariae. A research community, international in scope and dedicated to the study of theplasmodium parasite, rapidly emerged. Regular research coverage in the medicalpress in Europe and NorthAmerica sustained this communityand generated an even wider audience. International congresses institutionalized the plasmodium byprovidingfrequent forums for presenting, debating, and shaping future research on the life cycle of the parasite. Paradoxically, as knowledge of the plasmodium became internationalized , it became politicized in national terms. Interest in theplasmodium took place against the background of the rapid disintegration of political relations among the leading European powers after the 1880s. As national economies matured, competition among new and old nation-states intensified. The quest for new markets and sources of raw materials spurred imperial rivalries in Africa and Asia while simultaneously fanning the growth ofdomestic nationalism . In this context, the internationalization oftheplasmodium did not diminish nationalism but, rather, provided another source of national competition in science. To be sure, British scientists since the early nineteenth century had politicized science in national terms. When seeking state assistance and/or public support for research, Charles Babbage and others compared Britain unfavorably with continental rivals France and Germany.1 The empire rarely, if at all, figured in their jeremiads on the inadequacy ofpublic support for science. The international politics ofthe late nineteenth century made it possible to portray research about the empire as an expression ofnational science. As a source of national pride, then, the elaboration of the life history of the malaria parasite 9. Alphonse Laveran, c. 1901. Photograph from the Practitioner (London), March 1901. 88 CHAPTER 4 provided a space in which to recast the cultural meaning of British science. In a word, imperial science became British science. This context both inspired Manson's research interest in theplasmodium parasite and facilitated the demonstration of the mosquito-malaria relationship . In 1891, Manson attended the Seventh International Congress of Hygiene and Demography in London, where Laveran was a featured presenter. Within the decade, Manson's name would be synonymous with the transmission ofthe plasmodium from mosquitoes to humans. In a December 1894 article in the BritishMedical Journal, Manson proposed that a suctorial insect might play a role in the life historyofthe malariaparasite outside the humanbloodstream.2 Before a British Medical Association meeting in Edinburgh four years later, he announced the effective demonstration of the transmission of the parasite to humans in the bite of the mosquito.3 At first glance, Manson's association with this discovery is surprising because of his location. Manson did not leave Britain, nor did he conduct any substantive research on the theory itself. Instead, Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross of the Indian Medical Service performed the time-consuming work over four years, largely independent of official support. It was Ross-not Manson-who demonstrated the mode of transmission in the bite of mosquitoes analogously in birds in the summer of 1898. Ironically, Ross made this discovery only after revising Manson's original theory, which stressed passive infection. Yet, as metropolitan publicist for the mosquito-malaria theory, Manson played a decisive role in the process of discovery. Manson used the medical press and professional venues to generate an audience for the theory while Ross was engaged in its protracted demonstration. The wide gaps between Manson's public assertions and the verifiable evidence engendered skepticism at home and on the Continent. But criticism did not so much discredit the theory as create an audience for it. As Iwill show...


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