European Veterinary Education
The Rosen collection is an English-language collection focussed primarily on veterinary history in Britain and North America. It is useful, though, to look to France which was the European frontrunner in establishing institutionalized veterinary education in response to economic and agricultural conditions existing in the late 1700s. The environment spurring on the founding of veterinary schools was similar in a number of European countries, although the degree of importance assigned to animal care and the level of support from government and citizens differed from country to country. Some of the problems that plagued the first veterinary colleges in Britain could have been avoided by following the earlier French example. The conditions in France in the 1700s included: demands by livestock owners for trained animal care specialists; the predominance of horses in animal care services; and societal interest in improving agricultural conditions.
France was the European frontrunner in establishing institutionalized veterinary education in response to conditions existing in the late 1700s.
Claude Bourgelat (1712-1779) was instrumental in founding the veterinary school in Lyons in 1761 with the first students admitted in 1762. He opened a second veterinary school in 1766 in Maison-Alfort, near Paris: military students were the primary recipients of the four-year program. Students who completed the 4-year program at Lyons or Alfort received an official veterinary certificate, the "Brevet de privilégé en l'art vétérinaire", created by Louis XV in 1766 (Bols & De porte, 2016, p. 40). The support of the regent was due in part to Bourgelat's public relations skills, and also to the need for horses to support France's war efforts. In France, at the time, there were two groups competing to treat horses: the established guild of blacksmiths; and the equerries of noblemen who were interested in the emerging activity of equitation. Bourgelat was a published hippiatrist, however, he was also influenced by French politician Henri-Leonard Brétin who recognized that "... a school that would only train veterinarians in the care of horses would never be accepted on a broader scale because the horse was, after all, primarily a luxury animal" (Bols & De porte, 2016, p. 39). The term "vétérinaire" was used by Bourgelat and Brétin in the first two veterinary schools in France.
Cattle plagues from 1714 onwards were taking their toll on the French economy and causing hardship for farmers and other French citizens through famines and shortages of agricultural products. Reformers promoted "physiocracy", the theory that agriculture was the basis of demographic growth. Bols & De porte (2016, p. 38) explain "... rebuilding the country would only be possible when a sufficient number of healthy and well-fed labourers were available." Veterinary education was seen as one way to rebuild the economy, but trained veterinarians were few. The public still relied most often on cow leeches and farriers to treat their own livestock, because they often knew these practitioners personally. Governments had not enacted legislation to assist the veterinary profession, for example, by recognizing the importance of hygiene practices in combatting animal plagues.
As veterinary education in France produced graduates of a high academic standard, emigres to Britain and the United States greatly influenced professional activities in those countries: two such veterinarians were Charles Vial de Sainbel and Alexandré Liautard.
Charles Vial de Sainbel (1753-1793) was educated at the École de Vétérinaire in Lyons and undertook a lectureship there in 1772. He practiced as a surgeon and taught at more than one French veterinary school before he moved to England in 1788. He was the first short-lived superintendent of the London Veterinary College. Sainbel was a prolific author writing lectures and essays on farriery, shoeing, diseases of the horse, and the veterinary art. His skill as an anatomist and veterinary surgeon is evident in his writings. There are no printed works by Sainbel in the Rosen collection, however, the University of Saskatchewan Library has ebook versions of several of Sainbel's posthumously published works.
Alexandré Liautard (1835-1918) was a Frenchman educated at the veterinary school in Alfort who emigrated to the United States in 1860. He salvaged the failing New York City Veterinary School in the 1860’s and founded the American Veterinary College and Hospital in 1875 in New York (Dunlop and Williams, 1996, p. 656). In 1877, he became editor of the American Veterinary Review that provided an international view of veterinary science. He was an active educator and supporter of the profession until he retired in 1900 and returned to France. Liautard's book on Animal Castration, 12th edition, was published in 1902 and is in the Rosen collection.
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