JOURNAL ARTICLE

[What is the link between the sister of the "Titanic" and the history of medicine in Palestine?]

Zalman Greenberg
Harefuah 2006, 145 (6): 457-60, 468-9
16838904
On 21st November 1916, the Royal Navy Hospital ship 'Britannic' (the sister ship of the 'Titanic') was torpedoed near the island of Kea in the Aegean Sea. Captain Dr. John Cropper, aged 52, was one of 30 people who drowned of the 1100 on board. Dr. Cropper was born in 1864, at Guisborough, England. He obtained his medical degree from Cambridge University in 1891. After his marriage to Anne Ellen Walker in 1895, the Church Missionary Society sent him on a medical mission to Palestine. Dr. Cropper stayed in Palestine for about 10 years working in Acre, Nablus, Ramallah and Jerusalem. He published his experiences in 35 articles and letters in English medical periodicals, more than anyone else did in Palestine at that time. In those publications, he described various operations that he carried out and observations on infectious diseases, most of which were the first descriptions from that remote and unhealthy country. His prominent research was in the field of malaria - the most common and important disease in Palestine during that period. It was less than two years after Grassi's discovery of the role of Anopheles mosquitoes as the vector of human malaria that Dr. Cropper carried out surveys of larval and adult mosquitoes in correlation with malarial distribution in Palestine. Dr. Cropper was the first who routinely examined slides microscopically in Palestine and correctly diagnosed the type of malaria. Dr. Cropper was also the first in Palestine to suggest antimalarial measures aimed directly at the mosquito vector and paid attention to ecological aspects such as breeding places and the daily behavior of adult mosquitoes. Dr. Cropper noted the common antimalarial measurements of that time, such as covering of wells, planting of Eucalyptus trees to drain swamps and the routine use of quinine as a preventive medicine, but he wrote that those measures were not effective under the local conditions. He suggested that the only effective measures must be aimed against the larval mosquitoes and he recommended the use of a sulphur compound in order to destroy the larvae. Only many years later were those observations recognized as being correct. In our local public scientific memory, we remember early researchers such as Dr. Hillel Jaffe, Prof. Peter Muehlens, Prof. Israel Kligler, Prof. Gideon Mer, Dr. Zvi Saliternik and many others. Dr. Cropper preceded all of them. The comprehensive contributions of this English doctor to the medical research in Palestine should not be forgotten.

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