British Veterinary Education

The first veterinary schools that were established in England and Scotland each had a challenging start as private institutions. The founders had to find sources of funding, because there was no support from the British government. In addition, veterinary schools in Britain were not deemed of a suitable status to be associated with a university, and this exclusion from intellectual activity hampered the smooth development of the profession. With the exception Liverpool Veterinary School being affiliated with Liverpool University, it was not until 1946 that veterinary schools were integrated into the universities system. A standardized program of veterinary education was a future development intertwined with the profession becoming organized. In the early years according to Gardiner (2007, p. 307), “… the result was an emergence of private, idiosyncratic colleges run by strong-minded individuals, with a tendency to compete rather than cooperate with each other.”

Funds for the London Veterinary College, founded in 1791, were raised for college operations and facilities by subscription. Veterinary education, in Britain by 1793, was essentially a short-term apprenticeship that sent the profession in a practical rather than a scientific direction. Three decades after its founding with hopes of becoming a progressive, scientific institution, it [London school] was, in fact, a horse infirmary and a school of complacent mediocrity (Hall, 1994, p. 537). However, the equine focus of the school’s training at its founding made sense. That valuable animal provided transportation for people, equipment, and goods and would remain useful for decades to come until it was replaced in the early twentieth century by machinery powered by the internal combustion engine. Thus, the market for veterinary graduates at the turn of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century was mostly limited to a commission in the military, or setting up private equine practice, usually in cities.

Three decades after its founding with hopes of becoming a progressive, scientific institution, it [London school] was, in fact, a horse infirmary and a school of complacent mediocrity (Hall, 1994, p. 537).

Medical surgeons were influential in veterinary education as they sought to improve their own standing in professional society through public service. Thus, participating in administering veterinary education was one avenue. Fraser (2017, p. 497) notes that medical men were active in the school's affairs including presiding during student oral examinations, hiring personnel, and awarding certificates. Therefore, the two disciplines, medicine and veterinary medicine were loosely and unequally related: "... the "veterinary art" existed as a "branch" of human medicine, grounded in knowledge of humans and partially populated by surgeons" (Woods, 2017, p. 494). Although veterinary medicine was not much influenced by its sister profession, medicine with its research orientation, studied animals as experimental subjects and applied the findings to improve human health. Veterinary medicine and medicine were moving along different tracks: medicine was aligning its training with the sciences, physiology and biology whereas veterinary medicine was a practical 'art' focussing on treating infectious diseases in whole populations (Worboys, 1991, p. 319).

... the "veterinary art" existed as a "branch" of human medicine, grounded in knowledge of humans and partially populated by surgeons (Woods, 2017, p. 494).

Veterinary surgeons were keen to separate themselves from human medicine by developing their own body of scientific knowledge and gaining control over the business of running their profession including education and practice standards, and statutory protection over who was qualified to practice. As well, they wished to displace unregulated lay-healers who continued to ply their trade among animal owners as they had in the previous centuries. They wanted to enjoy the status and compensation of belonging to a recognized profession. This, some early proponents thought, could be accomplished by seeking legislation to support recognition as an independent profession.

Veterinary educators influencing the profession in Britain, and with works in the Rosen collection, include Vial de Sainbel, Coleman, McFaydean, Hobday, Clark, Dick, Stewart, and Gamgee. Veterinarians Coleman, Clark, Dick and Gamgee are discussed in the Biographies section, because they devoted their considerable talents as publisher, researcher, author, leader, or educator to the betterment of their profession.

The founding of the London Veterinary College (LVC) in 1791 is widely recognized to signal the foundation of veterinary medicine in Britain. It was opened with support from noblemen, gentlemen, and eminent medical men (Hall, 1994, p. 536). The Agricultural Society of Odiham was a prominent early supporter with the modest goals of improving the practice of farriery, and promoting improved agricultural practices. The Society proposed a veterinary school in 1785 and after initial support of the LVC, the Society no longer had an active role. The London Veterinary College was established with three goals to:

• train veterinarians;
• establish a veterinary infirmary; and
• promote the profession.

The first short-lived professor of the London Veterinary College was French veterinary surgeon Charles Vial de Sainbel (1753-1793) who moved to England in 1788. He was educated at the École de Vétérinaire in Lyons and practiced and taught in France before moving to England. He was more commonly known as Professor Sainbel and had a brief influence on the London school, before he passed away within two years of his appointment. In 1793, replacing Sainbel were co-appointees, William Moorcroft (1767-1825) and Edward Coleman (1765-1837) . Moorcroft, a veterinarian trained at Lyons and with a successful equine practice in London, resigned six weeks after his appointment citing ill health with the result that Edward Coleman became the sole superintendent for the next 40 years of the London school’s existence. Coleman was harshly judged by some of his contemporaries and the dressing down over the years continued by veterinary historians. “Coleman’s stultifying autocracy in veterinary matters in Great Britain ended at his death…” (Dunlop and Williams, 1996, p. 467).

Coleman is remembered in Britain’s veterinary history as an unabashed self-promoter whose activities netted him financial gain, and whose narrow-minded approach to veterinary education obstructed its development in Britain. He was despised by many of his colleagues for his autocratic management of the London school. Public condemnation of Coleman’s stewardship of the London college and the state of veterinary education in England is seen in editorials by William Percivall and William Youatt published in their influential veterinary medicine journal, The Veterinarian . As an educator, Coleman reduced the length of studies necessary for a diploma (from two years to three months) in order to supply veterinary officers to the army. He presented an inferior curriculum focussed exclusively on horses.

“Coleman’s stultifying autocracy in veterinary matters in Great Britain ended at his death…” (Dunlop and Williams, 1996, p. 467).

Fraser (2017) provides another perspective on some of Coleman's policies. The London school operated on subscription funds without government financial support and it would have been risky to allocate funds to improving facilities and redesigning the curriculum without sustainable financial support. As well, Coleman knew that graduates were interested in a short term of study resulting in qualifications that would allow them to find employment; he admitted young men who already had experience with horses, and topped up their knowledge with a short program. Coleman had ties to the military and through the school's governors persuaded Parliament to provide an annual grant to the school to train military students as veterinarians. Veterinary Surgeons as they came to be known in the military were officers and paid at a higher rate than regimental farriers. Fisher (1991, p. 291) agrees with Fraser that Coleman's strategy was successful in keeping the doors of the London school open as enrolments increased with fee-paying students. The school was successful in providing employment opportunities for graduates who chose to enter the military and were entitled to obtain commissioned rank in the army. Educational reformers, on the other hand, recognized that these practices would not sustain the profession. More about Coleman in the Biographies section.

First use of the designation of Veterinary Surgeon (VS) was by the Army Board of Officers in 1796 for military veterinarians. In 1844, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) was created and the designation of Veterinary Surgeon (VS) was adopted as a way to differentiate trained veterinarians from other animal healthcare providers. In 1875, the London Veterinary College was granted a royal charter and renamed the Royal Veterinary College (RVC); it remains the only veterinary college in the UK to have its own Royal Charter. Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) was then, and still is, the designation used by members, although the RCVS had no statutory effect until the Veterinary Surgeon's Act was passed in 1881.

John McFadyean (1853-1941) graduated from the Edinburgh veterinary school in 1876 and from the Edinburgh Medical School in 1882. He developed an interest in bacteriology as a student and after graduation as a trained scientist, he promoted integrating subjects such as the microbiological sciences including pathology, virology and bacteriology into the veterinary medicine curriculum. McFaydean had a 30-year tenure as Principal of the London school beginning in 1894. He raised the admissions bar comparable to that of British law and medical schools and instituted a 4-year degree program. According to Wilkinson (1992, p. 87), “At home McFadyean’s reforms gradually removed the negative attitudes which had plagued the relationship between the medical and veterinary professions until they could meet on equal terms as true collaborators in the healing professions.”

McFadyean continued his own research while Principal and founded The Journal of Comparative Pathology and Therapeutics in 1888 over which he had complete editorial control. The journal has maintained its excellent reputation since McFaydean's time and continues to publish scientific articles. He believed that educational reform including introducing science into the curriculum would, over time, position the profession favourably to meet the demands of a changing marketplace: in this he was aligned with Professor John Share Jones from the Liverpool Veterinary School (founded in 1904). However, they differed on the means to reach their goals - McFaydean sought to maintain the segregated education system exemplified by the London school while Share Jones promoted integrating veterinary schools with universities as experienced by the Liverpool school and Liverpool University. Liverpool was the only veterinary school integrated with a university until after WWII (Kraft, 2004, p. 317). Both men had their supporters, because the profession was divided on the amount and pace of educational reform necessary to reach its goals. McFadyean’s The Anatomy of the Horse: a Dissection Guide, 1909, is in the Rosen collection.

“At home McFadyean’s reforms gradually removed the negative attitudes which had plagued the relationship between the medical and veterinary professions until they could meet on equal terms as true collaborators in the healing professions” Wilkinson (1992, p. 87).

Frederick G.T. Hobday (1870-1932) became Principal of the Royal Veterinary College in 1927 at a time when the College was in physical and educational disrepair. Hobday was a sociable fellow who promoted a positive atmosphere among the students and faculty, and upgraded the quality of the curriculum of the College. He increased public awareness of the College and engaged in fundraising activities in an effort to gather sufficient finances to renovate or replace several aging College buildings. In 1937, he was forced to retire by the school’s governors just as the revitalization of the College’s buildings was to begin with funding that Hobday had secured. Frederick Hobday was also a successful clinician and researcher in addition to his educational role and is discussed in the Veterinary Researchers section.

Scotland and Ireland
For a few years in the 1800s in Britain there were three veterinary schools in Scotland and one in England. Scotland had advocates in education in several talented practitioners including James Clark, and veterinary surgeons William Dick, John Stewart and John Gamgee who each contributed to a lasting legacy that advanced veterinary education in Britain. The Edinburgh Veterinary College was founded by William Dick in 1821. John Gamgee opened the New Edinburgh Veterinary College in 1858. John McCall opened the Glasgow Veterinary College on Buccleuch Street in 1862 which produced its first graduates in 1865. Renamed the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine, the college continues to train and graduate veterinarians. In 1900, the veterinary school in Dublin opened.

James Clark (173?-1808) is remembered in veterinary history as an early promoter of veterinary education as well as being considered the Father of Veterinary Hygiene. He trained as a farrier and later graduated from the University of Edinburgh after taking courses in human and comparative anatomy. In 1790 he wrote to the Odiham Agricultural Society with a proposal for a veterinary school in Edinburgh, but his effort was preceded by that of Sainbel promoting a school in London. He continued to speak out about an Edinburgh school although he never committed his own funds to its founding. James Clark is recognized as an outstanding scientific writer as well as an educator. Several of Clark’s works in the Rosen collection are described in the Biographies section.

William Dick (1793-1876) was the person who eventually accomplished the founding of the Edinburgh school. He trained as a farrier at his father’s forge in the New Town of Edinburgh, and received a diploma in 1818 after three months of study at the veterinary college in London. He established a veterinary school in Edinburgh in 1821 that went on to develop an international reputation: this was a school the editors of The Veterinarian could praise. During this period, educational reformers were calling for improvements in veterinary education. In 1844, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) was incorporated with powers as a regulatory body resulting in the schools (and their Principals) no longer having a monopoly on decisions relating to education in their facilities. By 1848, William Dick had tired of arguing with the RCVS and removed his college from its affiliation meaning that his graduates received their certificates from the Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland. This situation continued past the death of Dick in 1866. The long-running dispute between the Edinburgh school and the RCVS was resolved in 1879 when it was agreed that Highland Agricultural Society graduates were eligible for membership in the RCVS. For its part, the Society would stop issuing certificates after 1881.

William Dick also had a substantial impact on the development of veterinary education in North America, through the school he founded in Europe and the graduates he mentored. Some of his students founded schools in Canada and the United States. Dick was a gifted diagnostician and teacher, although not a great nor prolific writer. His Occasional Papers on Veterinary Subjects published in 1869 appears in the Rosen collection. William Dick is included in the Biographies section.

John Stewart (1810-1896) graduated from the Edinburgh veterinary school in 1827. He practised in Glasgow after graduation, and then emigrated to Australia in 1840. Although Britain did not gain from Stewart’s presence in Europe, his experience and opinions were transmitted through his written works that appeared in multiple editions. As an opinion piece, Stewart wrote A Concise Account of Veterinary Surgery, its Schools and Practitioners … published in 1834, in which he took aim at the Edinburgh and London schools for deficiencies in their educational offerings especially by focussing overly on horses to the exclusion of other species. He also valued comparative medicine and advocated that medical students should learn about veterinary medicine and veterinary surgery. Stewart’s A Concise Account was published anonymously by a “Veterinary Surgeon”: Stewart admitted to being its author a year later in 1835. Smith notes that “Stewart’s delightful style of writing could not be mistaken” (Smith, 1976b, p. 45). One of Stewart’s works in the Rosen collection is Stable Economy, 2nd ed., 1838. The 7th edition was the final one published in 1860.

Describing Stewart’s Stable Economy, Smith (1976b, v.4, p. 46) says, “We have few veterinary classics: this is one.”

John Gamgee (1831-1894) was a London school graduate of 1852 who was in the vanguard of promoting education to advance the veterinary profession. He was a self-employed lecturer in veterinary medicine and surgery for one year in London until he was invited to lecture at the Edinburgh school. After a year he left the Edinburgh school and founded his own Edinburgh New Veterinary College in 1857, which was recognized by the RCVS for affiliation in 1859. Gamgee later sold the school and it eventually closed in 1868. The Glasgow Veterinary College was founded in 1862. John Gamgee was a vocal advocate of the profession and is mentioned in the Biographies section.

Veterinary Education Introduction
North American Veterinary Education
Veterinary Education in the United States
Canadian Veterinary Education
European Veterinary Education

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