Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria. To coincide with the OMRS Convention (19 September 2003)

Image 1

Click Image to Zoom

Date of Auction: 19th September 2003

Sold for £5,000

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500

The Burma and Chin-Lushai campaign medal awarded to Colonel Sir Ronald ‘Mosquito’ Ross, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., late Indian Medical Service, whose discovery of the mosquito cycle in malaria won him the Nobel Prize for Medicine and universal acclaim as one of the greatest benefactors of mankind

India General Service 1854-95, 2 clasps, Burma 1885-7, Chin-Lushai 1889-90 (Surgeon R. Ross, 9th Madras Infy.) good very fine £1000-1500


Ronald Ross was born at Almora, a hill station in the Nort-Western provinces of India, on 13 May 1857, the eldest child in the family of ten of General Sir Campbell Claye Grant Ross, of the Indian Army. At the age of seven he was sent to England to begin his education, initially in Ryde and then at Springhill, near Southampton. He became fond of nature studies as well as of drawing, music, writing verses and mathematics.

In 1874 he became a medical student at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. The extraordinary thing about Ross was that he never really wanted to be a doctor. His real ambition was to be an artist, and he had given evidence of his ability when he came first in the Oxford and Cambridge Local Examination in Drawing. But his father wanted him to go into the Indian Medical Service, so he obeyed. He failed his first examination and, to save his father money, he went to sea as a ship’s doctor until the next examination. He eventually passed and entered the Indian Medical Service, arriving at Bombay in October 1881. For the next several years he held temporary appointments either attached to various Madras regiments or doing duty at station hospitals. Some six months were spent at Vizianagram, and a short time at Pallaveram, both in the Madras Presidency.

From September 1882 to August 1884 he was at Madras itself. In September 1884 he brought a detachment of Madras Pioneers from Quetta to Madras, and in January 1885 spent a week in Burma taking a regiment to Thyetmyoo. On two occasions he was with detachments of Indian troops at Port Blair in the Andamans. From May 1885 to May 1886 he was at Moulmein during the operations in Burma, and later took part in the Chin-Lushai operations of 1889-90, for which he received the India medal with two clasps.

During a visit on leave to England in 1894, Ross was introduced to Patrick Manson, the famous tropical diseases doctor, who had made the discovery that a mosquito carried the parasite which caused elephantiasis in man. Manson suggested to Ross that the mosquito could also be the carrier of the malaria parasite, which the Frenchman, Laveran, had recently discovered in the blood of people suffering from malaria. However, no one had any idea yet how the parasite got there and Ross determined to find out. He began his search as soon as he got back to India. Two years and four months later, on 20 August 1897, he saw the first significant sign of success in the discovery of the pigmented oocysts of the malaria parasite in an unusual kind of mosquito, Ross’s ‘dapple-winged mosquito’, now well known as the anopheles mosquito.

It was not until the following year, however, that the discovery that malaria was an infectious disease transmitted from man to man by the mosquito was fully and for all time established. On 28 July 1898, when Manson announced Ross’s results at the Edinburgh meeting of the British Medical Association, the whole astounding cycle of development had been demonstrated for bird malaria and hence by very obvious probability for malaria in man. In February 1899, Ross left India to take up the position of lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and in July of the same year he retired from the Indian Medical Service.

His mind was now turned almost wholly to the application of his discovery to the eradication of malaria by the destruction of the anopheles mosquito. Success was not at first so great as had been anticipated, for although the method was clearly logical enough, difficulties in carrying it out were at first underestimated. Ross, nevertheless, lived to see his methods applied with increasing success all over the world and, as organization and experience increased, universally recognized as the way in which man might eventually rid himself of this most deadly of all diseases of the tropics which, even today, is reckoned to claim some three million lives every year.

Within a few years of his discovery honours of every kind were conferred upon Ross by scientific institutions of many countries. In 1901 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, which awarded him a Royal medal in 1909. In 1902 he was awarded the prestigious Nobel prize for medicine. He was appointed a Commander of the Bath in 1902, a Knight Commander of the Bath in 1911, and received honorary degrees from several universities. Whilst in Liverpool, Ross organized and led expeditions to Sierra Leone (1899-1900), West Africa (1901-02), Mauritius (1907-08), Spain, Cyprus and Greece (1912), his chief concern being the prevention of malaria. During 1912 he moved to London and became physician for tropical diseases at King’s College Hospital.

In 1908, Ross received a commission as Major in the R.A.M.C., Territorial Force, became Lieutenant-Colonel in 1913, and Consulting Physician for tropical diseases to the Base Hospitals for Indian Troops in England in December 1914. In 1915, he was sent to Alexandria to investigate dysentery prevailing in the Dardanelles. He became Consultant for Malaria to the War Office and in 1917 was sent to Salonika on a malaria survey. The ship he was on was torpedoed “in a landlocked bay close to the Leucadian Rock (where Sappho is supposed to have drowned herself)” - Ross gives a dramatic account of the incident in his ‘Memoirs.’ In 1918 he became temporary Colonel in the R.A.M.C., and in June of that year was appointed a Knight Commander of St Michael and St George. In 1925 he became Consultant in Malaria to the Ministry of Pensions, and when, in 1926, the Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases at Putney Heath was founded in his honour, he became its first director-in-chief. Sir Ronald Ross died on 16 September 1932, at the Ross Institute after a long illness.

The medal is accompanied by a substantial quantity of additional research and six related books, including Ross’s Memoirs (London 1923) which contains an autographed letter of thanks from Ross to James Tait Black for the memorial prize won by Ross for this same book.