Giovan Battista Grassi

Life Science Researcher  born in Rovellasca, Como, Italy on 25/03/1854

Parents: Luigi Battista Grassi, a public official and Costanza Mazzucchelli, agriculure worker also called “Giovanni”, the real name, as reported on the facade of Rovellasca’s birthplace, is Giovan Battista Grassi.

After completing his elementary and secondary school studies in the private Bolchi-Stucchi college in Saronno , and his high school studies in Como , in the Volta high school, in October 1872 , he enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Pavia , boarder of the Ghislieri College.

He was a passionate naturalist and was often seen working in his lab observing and deissecting insects.

In 1876 , while still a student, while he was in Rovellasca , he had noticed that there had been a serious death of cats due to absolutely unknown causes; by dissecting the dead animals he was able to demonstrate that the causative agent was a parasite very similar to Anchylostoma duodenale , which is at the origin of severe anemia in tropical countries.

Close-up shot of microscope

In 1892 he discovered the parasite malaria, Protosoma praecox , which closely resembled Plasmodium vivax.

As part of the research activity, he decided to obtain a complete picture of the relationships existing between malaria and mosquitoes; in the first place he observed that where there were cases of malaria there were also mosquitoes but also that not in all areas infested with mosquitoes there were cases of malaria. On the basis of this observation he concluded that only a particular species of mosquito was responsible for the transmission and malaria testing.

After the results obtained by Ronald Ross following the preliminary studies carried out in India ( 1897 ) on human malaria and the experimental demonstration of the transmission of avian malaria of birds from Culex pipiens , Giovan Battista Grassi, in July 1898 undertook a large biogeographical study which allowed him to correlate the presence of malaria to a particular genus of mosquito, the Anopheles.

In collaboration with pathologists Giuseppe Bastianelli and Amico Bignami , he studied the life cycle of Plasmodium in humans and mosquitoes and in November of 1898 experimentally achieved the transmission of malaria in a healthy subject through the sting of Anopheles collected in malarial areas.

The following year he was able to demonstrate that Anopheles becomes infected when it stings an infected human being and announced what was called “ The Law of Fat ”: malaria = anopheles + infected humans.