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Local author pens book about history, adventure and discovering the malarial parasite


A local author has written a stirring book about a fascinating family history that also explains how the malarial parasite was discovered.

The Great Mosquito Hunt and Other Adventures by Elizabeth Manson-Bahr from Headington in Oxford, examines the history of Britain’s connection with the rest of the world through the lens of a global family’s history from the nineteenth century.

In the book, Elizabeth takes readers on a journey through time and across the world as she traces a medical tradition that continues three generations into the family and beyond, starting with her great-grandfather, Sir Patrick Manson.

Sir Patrick Manson, known as Mosquito Manson, was the first scientist to prove that insects were vectors of disease, a discovery which led to the detection of the malarial parasite.

He founded the Chinese Medical School in Hong Kong and the London School of Tropical Medicine. Among his pupils was Sun-Yat-sen, the first President of modern China.

Tracing the journey of a family through history, The Great Mosquito Hunt is also the story of plagues and pandemics – of Scottish and German merchants who made their fortunes in Egypt and Russia.

It is the story of the rescued slave Selim Aga, who became secretary to Sir Richard Burton, the explorer. The author’s mother, orphaned by the Spanish Flu, joined the FANYS in 1942 and married Clinton, the third in the family line of tropical medicine. The chapters are interspersed with the author’s own childhood memories of growing up in Fiji and Kenya.

Much of the story is seen through the eyes of the children who lived it, who met the last cannibal in Fiji and became friends with a Mau Mau chief.

Elizabeth Manson-Bahr
Elizabeth Manson-Bahr

Elizabeth explains: “I set out to write a family history with wide appeal and a well-researched historical background.

“My own childhood in Kenya and Fiji during the last days of the Empire was the germ. But that in itself wasn’t enough to interest general readers.

“When I researched the rest of the family and the range of countries in which they lived, I found more than I had bargained for!”

Elizabeth Manson-Bahr has worked as a commercial artist and lives in Oxford. She is the author of the novel Children of the Sun, a story of the Aztecs.

The Great Mosquito Hunt and Other Adventures is due to be published on 28 January 2024.

If you love the TV programme “Who do you think you are?”, you should buy this book.

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