How was malaria discovered?
Malaria has long been known to human populations from across the world. In fact, the first mention of the symptoms of malaria comes from an ancient Chinese manuscript from 2700 BCE! However, the actual cause and mechanism of transmission of the disease was only discovered in the 19th century.
It was Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, a French physician working in Algeria, who first observed the parasites that cause malaria in 1880, by looking at the blood of a patient that had recently died of malaria. However, at this point, it still wasn’t understood how malaria was transmitted. That was not discovered until 1897, when Ronald Ross, a British physician dedicated to curing malaria, observed malaria parasites in a mosquito that had been experimentally fed the blood of a patient infected with malaria. Working in India, Ross also later showed that mosquitoes could also transmit malaria to birds, if they had previously fed on the blood of birds which had malaria. In this way, he showed that mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles are responsible for transmitting malaria between hosts.