In January 1902 Dr Patrick Thurburn Manson left England as part of a commission sent to Christmas Island by the London School of Tropical Medicine. He was to join the microbiologist and bacteriologist Dr H. E. Durham; his mission was to investigate scientifically and report upon beri-beri which had been a terrible scourge to the Chinese coolies.
A trip that would have started with so much promise with the enthusiasm of the young doctor would quickly end in a shocking tragedy.
SAD FATALITY AT CHRISTMAS ISLAND
Accidental death of Dr Manson.
A gun shot wound.
We regret to hear that a telegram has been received in Singapore announcing the death of Dr. Manson, son of Sir Patrick Manson, who passed through Singapore a fortnight ago for Christmas Island, where he was going to study beri-beri. The cause of death was a gun accident.
All who met Dr Manson during his recent brief stay here will be grieved at this sudden extinction of so promising a career, and the far too premature close to the life of so genial and capable a young man.
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 20th March 1902. Reprinted with permission
A couple of years earlier Dr Manson volunteered to be infected with malarial mosquitoes thus enabling his father, Sir Patrick (“The Father of Tropical Medicine”) to finally prove beyond doubt the transmission route of malaria.
In 1900 he [Patrick Thurburn Mason] submitted himself to the crucial experiment through which he will be remembered in the history of medicine’. He exposed himself to the bites of infected Anopheles [mosquitoes] sent from Rome by Bignami and Bastianelli. The insects had previously sucked the blood of a patient suffering from mild tertian malaria. The result of the experiment was that Manson developed tertian fever, the parasites being found in his blood. The initial infection was followed by two recurrences, the first at Aberdeen during the summer of 1901, the second whilst he was out on a holiday shooting. The attacks were cut short through the administration of quinine. This experiment removed the doubts of those sceptics who remained unconvinced by the similar infection experiments of Grassi, Bignami and Bastianelli, on the ground that the Italian experiments were conducted in a country where malaria was indigenous.
J Hyg (Lond). 1902 Jul 1; 2(3): 382–383
The above quote showed that Patrick went shooting whilst on holiday the year before but the circumstances around the gun accident on Christmas Island is not known.
His loss came as a terrible blow to his father — a blow that was never effaced — and he never mentioned his name again.
History of The School Of Tropical Medicine In London, 1899-1949 by Sir Philip Manson-Bahr 1956 (son-in-law of Sir Patrick Manson).