Samples from Milestones

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Beginnings: The Early History of Veterinary History in Canada

The roots of veterinary medicine in Canada lie with a centuries-old group of individuals known as farriers. Like blacksmiths who were trained in the art of shoeing horses, farriers were naturally involved in the care of the hooves and legs of horses. They had access to a large body of literature devoted to their craft. Over time, this literature grew to include extensive discussions about various diseases that affected the health of animals. Some diseases discussed in the eighteenth century include farcy (later recognized as a cutaneous form of glanders, an infectious disease of horses), consumption (later recognized as tuberculosis), and cattle plague (also known as rinderpest). The world's first veterinary school was founded in Lyon, France, in 1761. Shortly after in 1791, the Veterinary College, London,  was established in England. In the early 1800s, veterinary schools increased in number throughout the UK and Europe, and several unsuccessful schools were initiated in the USA. Although farriers provided a level of care for horses, as the nineteenth century progressed, it became clear that a formally-educated veterinary profession was required to care for Canada's growing livestock population (1).

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 1856: The Campaign to Organize A Veterinary College in Canada

In 1856, Adam Fergusson, a Scot, a prominent cattle breeder, and a leading member of the Upper Canada Board of Agriculture, with George Buckland, Professor of Agriculture at the University of Toronto, initiated a campaign to establish a veterinary college in Upper Canada. The Board of Agriculture agreed that the school would be located in Toronto, and in 1859 approached William Dick, Principal of the Edinburgh Veterinary School in Scotland (later the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies), by correspondence, asking him to recommend a veterinarian to establish a school. Buckland later visited Dick in Edinburgh to pursue the recommendation. In 1861, Dick endorsed a medal-winning top graduate, Andrew Smith, the son of a farmer from Dalrymple, Ayershire, in southwestern Scotland (2).

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1862: Andrew Smith Begins Lecturing on Veterinary Science

AndrewSmithClass1889.gifAndrew Smith, an 1861 graduate of the Edinburgh Veterinary School, was appointed by the Upper Canada Board of Agriculture to found a veterinary school in Toronto. Arriving in Toronto in September 1861, Smith opened a veterinary practice there in October. In February 1862 he began giving public lectures as part of a free four-week course in ‘Agriculture and the Veterinary Art’ offered jointly with George Buckland, Professor of Agriculture at the University of Toronto. Around 1863, he also began to offer a short winter ‘veterinary course’ of lectures, for a fee of $5.00, to those who had attended the free course and aspired to be veterinarians. In 1864, Smith was granted a charter by the Upper Canada Board of Agriculture for the founding of the Upper Canada Veterinary School. He personally selected the students, and was the main instructor and examiner at the School, aided by a small number of part-time faculty. There were no explicit academic requirements for entrance, other than the ability to read and write, and the curriculum at the time was unscientific and practical. This reflected both Smith’s approach to the veterinary art, and, to some extent, the immature status of the profession in Canada (3).

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 Endnotes:

[1] For a general history of farriery and its transformation into veterinary medicine, see Louise Hill Curth, The Care of Brute Beasts: A Social and Cultural Study of Veterinary Medicine in Early Modern England (Leiden: Brill, 2010). See also Robert H. Dunlop and David J. Williams, Veterinary Medicine: An Illustrated History (St. Louis: Mosby-Year Book Inc., 1996), 53-218.,
[2] For further reading, see Eugene Gattinger, A Century of Challenge: A History of the Ontario Veterinary College (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962), 20-25. See also Charles A Mitchell, "A Note on the Early History of Veterinary Science in Canada," Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine 2, no.4 (April 1938): 91-95.
[3] See Dictionary Canadian Biography Online, s.v. "Smith, Andrew," http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7073& (accessed July 30, 2012).