The History of Higher Education in Bloomsbury and Westminster

Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Institute of Education, University of London

King's College London

London School of Economics

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Royal Holloway, University of London

School of Oriental and African Studies

Senate House Library, University of London

University College London

University of Westminster



London School of Tropical Medicine

London School of Tropical Medicine, c.1899

The School was founded in 1899 by Sir Patrick Manson as the London School of Tropical Medicine and was located in the Seaman's Hospital Society Branch Hospital, near the Royal Victoria and Albert Docks, East London. Manson was a physician who worked in the Far East from the 1860s-1880s, where he encountered tropical diseases and was frustrated by his lack of knowledge. While working as Medical Advisor to the Colonial Office he proposed that doctors should be trained in tropical medicine. This came at a time when Britain was at the height of it's empire and was suffering from a phenomenon called 'White Man's Grave', in which large numbers of white men working in the colonies, most of which were in the tropics, died of tropical diseases which could have been treated if British doctors knew more about these diseases.

The School taught short courses in Tropical Medicine to men and women, from the United Kingdom and overseas, in three 12 week sessions during the year. Students came from all branches of the medical profession including Medical Officers of the Home and Indian Armies, the Royal Navy, Colonial Service, Foreign Office Service, Missionary Societies, Railways, Trading Corporations and private practitioners.


Laboratory in London School of Tropical Medicine
Sir Patrick Manson in laboratory at the London School of Tropical Medicine, c.1900

Mosquito box
Mosquito box used for the transporation of mosquitoes
As well as teaching, the School undertook an important role in research into tropical disease. One of these experiments involved the transportation of malaria infected mosquitoes from Italy to London where they were fed on two healthy men who subsequently contracted the disease.

In 1920, the School moved, with the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, to a former hotel which had been used as a hospital for officers during the First World War in Endsleigh Gardens in central London. In 1921 the Athlone Committee recommended the creation of an institute of state medicine in London, this built on a proposal by the Rockefeller Foundation to develop a London based agency that would lead the world in the promotion of public health and tropical medicine. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was founded by Royal Charter in 1924.
School in Endsleigh Gardens
School building in Endsleigh Gardens, 1920
Construction of the School
Construction of the new School building in 1927
The purchase of the site and the cost of a new building was made possible through a generous gift of $2m from the Rockefeller Foundation. A competition to design the new School building was held involving five architects, all experienced in laboratory design and construction. This was won by Morley Horder and Verner Rees.

The Minister for Health, Neville Chamberlain (whose father, Joseph Chamberlain, had been involved in the School's foundation in 1899) laid the foundation stone for the new building on 7th July 1926.

The building was officially opened on 18th July 1929, by HRH the Prince of Wales. It is a steel framed building (one of the first ever erected) with a Portland stone façade designed in the stripped Classical style using Portland stone. A carving of Apollo and Artemis riding a chariot (used as the School's logo) can be seen above the main entrance. The first floor balconies are decorated with gilded bronze insects and animals involved in transmitting disease. A frieze surrounding the building displays the names of 23 pioneers of public health and tropical medicine between laurel wreaths.

Exterior of School
Exterior of School, c.1950s

Sir Ronald Ross
Sir Ronald Ross

The School Archives hold the records of a number of prominent individuals who spent their lives investigating tropical disease and public health, among these are Sir Patrick Manson who founded the School, Sir Ronald Ross who discovered the mosquito transmission of malaria in 1897 and was the first Briton to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, and Sir Austin Bradford Hill, who with Richard Doll discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer in the 1950s.

The School is now Britain's national school of public health and the leading postgraduate institution in Europe for public health and tropical medicine. The London School is an internationally recognized centre of excellence in public health, international health and tropical medicine with a remarkable depth and breadth of expertise.

For further information on the history of the School and the historical collections we hold, please visit the Archive webpages

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