Ronald Ross’s connection with Secunderabad

By: Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao 

[The writer is CPRO to Telangana CM]

Few people are aware that it was in a house in Begumpet near Hyderabad airport that a great scientist lived and made a great discovery for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine. It was here about 130 years ago, on August 20, 1897, that Sir Ronald Ross discovered the malarial parasites in a dissected anopheles mosquito.

This house situated in a sprawling compound with an area of about 12,000 square feet became the proud possession of the then Andhra Pradesh branch of the Indian Red Cross society in 1986.

The otherwise close building since then had became a busy center from the Independence day on August 15, 1986 with the inauguration of Red Cross Rakshak (security services), St John’s ambulance services, Institute of Traffic Safety and Training and Institute of first aid training, thanks to the efforts made by Red Cross authorities of that time. It continued for couple of years.

Sir Ronald Ross was born in India in 1857 at Almora in present day Uttarakhand and passed medicine studying at St. Bartholomew’s hospital. He was a member of the Indian medical service. While in Hyderabad, he made the historic discovery and demonstrated the malarial parasites in various forms in the female anopheline mosquito in 1895. In 1897, he found the pigmented cells of the parasite in the mosquito stomach. His success in verifying the theory of a mosquito vector in the transmission of malaria was prompted by Patrick Manson’s research and counsel.

The day Ross discovered the malaria parasite he wrote a poem and sent to his wife. It reads like….

This day relenting God
Hath placed within my hand
A wondrous thing; and God
Be praised. At His command,
Seeking his secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
O million-murdering Death.
I know this little thing
A myriad men will save.
O Death, where is thy sting?
Thy victory, O Grave?

This important discovery made by Sir Ronald Ross helped eradicate malaria from most parts of the world. Sir Ronald resigned from the Indian Medical Service in 1899 at the age of 42 to join, at Liverpool, the Institute of Tropical Medicine. In 1902, he received Nobel Prize.

He died in London in September, 1932.

The Indian Red Cross Society, AP Branch (then) spotted this building which had been lying without any use for almost 15 years.

All that one could see there was a watchman, who faithfully protected it from unauthorized occupation. In memory of the great scientist while the Secunderabad cantonment authority erected a gablet in 1935, Indian airlines had this under its control until about 1960. Then, thanks to the initiative of Dr Gopala Rao and Prof S. N. Singh, the Sir Ronald Society was formed with a view to commemorating his epoch-making discovery in Hyderabad of malarial transmission by mosquito.

Like many other Societies this one also suffered from lack of funds, except the long grant from the Nizam Trust Fund in 1974.

The Ross memorial institute setup by this society could not function from here due to lack of infrastructural facilities. It functioned from the Osmania university zoology department.

Thus the building was not under use and was left deserted for several years. However, 1980 the then health minister proposed to take over the building for advancement of malaria research in the state and also to locate the central malaria laboratory, museum and the research wing. It, however, remained a mere proposal.

The Red Cross proposed to organize in this building “Sir Ronald Ross institute of tropical medicine and national health programmes” to create awareness about the national health programmes; to establish an institute to train medical and paramedical personnel; to impart continued education in fields of tropical medicine and also to conduct correspondence-cum regular courses. This was readily accepted by the sir Ronald Ross society at the time of handing over to Red Cross.

Once again the house of Sir Ronald Ross who was not only a great man in the field of medicine but also excelled in mathematics, music, novel-writing and invented a system of shorthand and discovered a method of phonetic spelling was pressed into useful social activity.

For the next couple of years the building was bubbling with activity. Later what happened is not known and under whose control it is now is also to be known.

On enquiry it is learnt that the building and premises is under the control of Osmania University Zoology Department who visit now and then and conduct few workshops or seminars. Notable among them is celebrating the event of discovery of malarial parasites on every August 20.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *