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Veterinary History
Education: the keystone of the veterinary profession
  1. Bruce Vivash Jones
  1. Netherton Lodge, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5DD e-mail:

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Bruce Vivash Jones is Senior Vice-Chairman of the Veterinary History Society

2011 is World Veterinary Year, marking the 250th anniversary of the founding of the modern profession, following the establishment of the world's first veterinary school in Lyon in 1761. Here, Bruce Vivash Jones traces the development of veterinary education, paying particular attention to the contribution of Claude Bourgelat, founder of the Lyon school

THE establishment of education not only brings about the mutually beneficial process of learning and teaching, but also enables the creation of a discipline. From that fundamental step, it is possible to craft a way of studying that discipline: the scientific method. This year we celebrate the memory of Claude Bourgelat, because he was the catalyst, the enabler who started the process that has created a trained cadre of veterinary professionals.

Early history

Recorded history reveals that, from ancient times, healers of man and animals have tried both to preserve and pass on their accumulated knowledge. In all the early societies that developed a veterinary art, training was by apprenticeship; there were no schools.

The oldest record is from Babylonia, where one Urlugaledinna (3000 BC) was named as ‘expert in healing animals’. Later, under the Emperor Hammurabi (2200 BC), a specific code was defined for both animal and medical healers; this can be seen on the stele in the Louvre Museum. The Kahun papyrus indicates that knowledge, of a sort, and a medication system existed in Egypt in about 1900 BC. This, however, was in priestly hands.

India under King Asoka, in the Vedic period (about 1800-1600 BC), had, so it is recorded, hundreds of animal hospitals, the remains of some of which still exist. This state, but partly religious, system, with a major emphasis on animal welfare, was destroyed following the Mogul invasion. China, in the later …

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