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In June 1866, Patrick Manson (1844-1922), newly qualified in medicine at Aberdeen University, arrived in Formosa (Taiwan) to begin a career in the service of the Chinese Imperial Maritime customs. His five years there, and subsequently at Amoy on the Chinese mainland, set in train a sequence of events that has been called 'the birth of the science of tropical medicine'1. For it was there that Manson began his solitary painstaking studies of the filarial larvae of elephantiasis, and of mosquitoes transmitting filarial infections. It was there that he first realised and acknowledged his own shortcomings in diagnosing and treating the 'tropical diseases' affecting his Chinese patients. These shortcomings were shared by many British colleagues, sent to outposts of the Empire, with no formal knowledge of diseases of hot climates, which did not then form part of the curriculum in British medical schools.