Ronald Ross, William Gorgas, and Malaria Eradication

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  • Wellcome Museum of Medical Science, 183 Euston Road, London N.W.1, England
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It comes as a surprise to learn that, according to the oracular Oxford Dictionary, the term “eradication” is of a respectable vintage, since it was used in one of the 1533–1534 Acts of the English Parliament, under Henry VIII, when the King repudiated the Papal supremacy and commanded that “the heresy shulde utterly be abhorred, detested and eradicated.” Through the next four centuries the relevant verb or noun or adjective was widely used not only by gardeners and foresters, when writing about plants and trees, but also by physicians when curing carbuncles or ulcers, by mathematicians when taking square or cubic roots, and by historians when describing the fate of King's enemies or plights of nations. Also, by naturalists such as Darwin, when writing in 1871 of the habits of Paraguayan Indians who pluck their eyebrows.

The concept of “eradication” of an infectious disease originated and received its practical application in the USA, in May 1884, a decade after Pasteur and Koch's momentous discoveries.

Author Notes

Emeritus Professor of Tropical Hygiene, University of London; Associate, Wellcome Museum of Medical Science, London.

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