Issue 23, 2000

Summaries of main articles

A.H.H.M. Mathijsen

"Veterinary genetics" and "Women in veterinary medicine", the main themes of the 31st WAHVM-congress in Brno (Czech Republic)

The congress, held from 6-10 September 2000 on the campus of the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Brno, attracted 102 participants from 23 countries, plus 20 accompanying persons. Next to a report on some special events as visits to the Veterinary Museum and the Mendelianum, after laying a wreath at Mendel's tomb, summaries or annotations are given of the lectures presented.

There were five invited speakers in the session on "Veterinary genetics" and one invited speaker in the session devoted to "Women in veterinary medicine". Three guest speakers could be invited thanks to a grant by the "History of Medicine Programme" of The Wellcome Trust in London. The total number of lectures was 34. Besides, some historical veterinary films were shown, and 34 posters were on display. The congress was very well organized by a team presided by em.-professor Rudolf Böhm.

A.M. Gobin

Mendelism in animal breeding as developed by professor Leopold Frateur, Louvain (1877-1946)

Educated as a veterinarian at Cureghem, Leopold Frateur started his scientific career in 1899 as a professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, in charge of the course in zootechnology. After a study tour to zootechnical institutes and centres of animal breeding in Europe he was invited by the governmental department of Agriculture and the Belgian Society of Zootechnology to investigate the relevance of the Mendelian laws of heredity for the improvement of cattle breeding. In the early years of the century, Frateur conducted field research in order to determine the characteristics of the cattle breeds in Belgium. In 1908 Frateur founded the Institute of Animal Husbandry at his university. Here he worked out his programme of experimental genetics until his retirement in 1936. The last six years of his professorship he teached also agricultural economics in the Faculty of Economical Sciences.

In Frateur's experimental research the following main lines can be distinguished: 1) The analysis of simple and complex hereditary factors in cattle, rabbits and poultry; 2) The study of qualitative and quantitative characteristics of importance for the improvement of animal breeds; 3) The synthesis of genetic factors from different stock in order to obtain higher yielding breeds with stable characteristics; 4) Theoretical study of the relationship between genotype and phenotype and the influence of environmental factors; 5) Theoretical exploration of the issue of variability and modification of newly formed characteristics; 6) Research leading to an explanation of telegony and atavism; 7) The formulation of a theory on the creation of new breeds in domestic animals and plants, and the relation between breed and species.

Also he was responding to topical needs, e.g. he determined the causal factor of pullorum epidemic in chicken farming, or he investigated the hereditary resistance against diphteric infection amongst chickens.

Frateur took the theoretical knowledge on heredity as the starting point for practical application in cattle breeding. During and right after W.W.I he stated that the current scientific knowledge is enough advanced to consider the start of a large breeding programme for the improvement of cattle livestock. In order to realise this reinstatement Frateur received important support from the authorities (Royal Decree, August 1919). From then onwards he focussed his efforts on the realisation of a national framework for improvement of cattle livestock, in collaboration with regional centres and societies for animal selection, breeding and production. Later he also started programmes for the improvement of chicken and pig breeding, again in a joint effort with official consultants and members of breeding societies. He was not only the architect of these programmes, providing the necessary scientific and technical guidance, but he had also a chair in the governing bodies, supervising the execution and control of the breeding programmes.

In order to draw a picture of the research community engaged in animal breeding during the first decennia of the 20th century Frateur's contacts through study tours, congresses and learned societies are investigated.

The life and work of Frateur is described by the author in two volumes, published in 1999. The second volume consists of a reprint of 50 selected papers on animal breeding.

Susan D. Jones

Gender and veterinary medicine: global historical perspectives

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are living through a transition in the interactions between gender and veterinary medicine. Traditionally male-dominated, veterinary medicine has recently experienced a world-wide increase in the number of women entering veterinary schools and practising in all areas of the profession. Understanding this tradition requests us to ask historical and sociological questions in order to illuminate the role of gender and the participation of women in the development of modern veterinary medicine. This paper will outline an agenda for historians interested in research on gender and veterinary medicine, focussing on three specific methodologies and using some of my own research data to illustrate them.

First, scholars around the world have begun ti identify pioneer women veterinarians and write their biographies. This methodology represents the majority of the work published on this topic to date, and it is the first stage of research. It accomplishes many important goals: to recognize key historical figures previously neglected; to establish the important contributions that women have made to veterinary medicine; and to illuminate the development of veterinary ideas and practice in the process of describing women's lives.

Second, I recommend that scholars begin to study the ideological connections between gender and veterinary medicine. This cultural intellectual historical methodology promises to be a fruitful way to study gender and veterinary medicine (as it has been for the history of science and human medicine). Over different time periods and in different places, it explores the cultural gender roles and the culture of veterinary medicine and animal husbandry. By comparing the two, we can explain much about the inclusion (or exclusion) of women and the ideological meanings of veterinary medicine itself within human-animal relationships and within human social organization.

Finally, the sociological approach, encompassing the use of demographics, economics, and social history, should be applied, especially in discussing recent historical concerns. These traditional social science methods work well in answering questions about a profession, who enters it, who leaves it, and why. This methodology also allows comparision between cultures and fits together with the other methodologies I have described.

I encourage historians to explore these and other methodologies in this new and exciting area of research. Also it is our responsability to ensure that data are being currently collected, since we are living through a transition that will greatly interest historians of veterinary medicine in the future.

Peter A. Koolmees

Feminization of veterinary medicine in The Netherlands 1925-2000

The feminisation of veterinary medicine occurred in The Netherlands, as elsewhere in the world, in the course of the twentieth century. In 1930, Jeannette Voet (1907-1979) was the first female veterinarian graduate of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University. In contrast with the first Dutch female physician who graduated in 1878, Jeannette Voet was not an active feminist. Instead, she concentrated on the development of various fields of veterinary medicine during her career. Nevertheless, she played an important role in the acceptance of women in Dutch veterinary medicine. The integration of women into all areas of the veterinary profession was a gradual process. Meat inspection, in particular, proved to be rather conservative in its acceptance of female veterinarians.

The number of women veterinarians in the profession increased only gradually throughout the twentieth century. In 1970, women represented not more than 5% of all veterinarians in The Netherlands. A significant increase in female students was first observed in the 1980s. The large influx of city girls who are primarily interested in companion animal and horse medicine is still quite remarkable. The average percentage of female first-year students between 1988 and 1992 was 60; over the last 5 years, this increased to 70%. Between 1988 and 1999, the average percentage of female graduates grew from 35 to 60%. Consequently, the proportion of Dutch female veterinarians increased from 5 to 25% between 1970 and 2000. In spite of this development, the representation of women veterinarians among policy-making officials, leading veterinary authorities and academic staff (particularly at the professor level) is still quite low. From this point of view, veterinary medicine could still be considered as ‘a man’s job’.

Feminisation of veterinary medicine is often explained by an increase in the numbers of companion animals and horses and part-time jobs or by a different, gender-based attitude towards animals. Another, simpler, explanation is that fewer male students are attracted to veterinary medicine because they can make more money in other professions. More historical sociological research, including a comparison with feminisation in other sciences and broader society, is necessary to obtain a deeper insight into this phenomenon. Regardless, feminisation is likely to further change the veterinary profession in the near future.

K.K.I.M. de Balogh

The role of female veterinarians in Africa

While the number of female veterinary students has reached figures as over 80% in the Netherlands and other European countries, the number of female veterinary students in Africa is also changing but still at a slower pace. Still nowadays, according to UNICEF, two-thirds of primary school age children, denied their right to basic education, are girls. In addition, especially in rural areas in Africa, there are only few secondary schools, so that children, either have to travel over large distances on a daily basis or have to live away from their families. As girls, already from an early age, play an important role in the daily household routine, they are often not allowed to leave for schooling.

There used to be less than 10 veterinary faculties in Africa during the first half of the 20th century. These faculties were located in South Africa, Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria. For many years, African veterinarians were also trained in western countries (UK, France, USA) or in former communist countries (Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Eastern Germany, Cuba) depending on the existence of historic or political links. A long stay abroad made it more difficult for female students, especially for those with children.

The image of the veterinary profession is different in Africa when compared to Europe or the USA. Most veterinary students in western countries expect to work in clinical practice after their graduation. In Africa on the other hand, most veterinarians work in the government structure and generally their activities are directed towards disease prevention and control as well as administrative activities. With a trend toward privatisation of government services and the increase in urbanisation, a limited number of private practices have evolved mainly in the field of small animals.

Still nowadays, female veterinarians in Africa are mostly working for the veterinary departments mainly in the urban areas. Another area were many female veterinarians can be found are governmental diagnostic and research laboratories as well as training institutions such as veterinary faculties or agricultural colleges. Generally the salaries at these institutions are very low and therefore their male colleagues have gradually shifted to work in the private sector with more competitive salaries (private clinics, pharmaceutical companies, development projects, (agricultural) banks, etc). As still in most societies, women tend to follow their husbands, most female veterinarians are bound to find employment where their husbands are based. In addition, as most postgraduate training required a prolonged stay abroad, women encountered difficulties in leaving their families behind to improve their career perspectives. Gradually, there has been an increase of possibilities of postgraduate training in the African region as well as the introduction of a modular system and perspectives for training over the internet. These developments will clearly be beneficial for women, as it will enable them to follow post-graduate training without leaving their families for extended periods.

Gradually, also female veterinarians in Africa are becoming empowered and recognise their capabilities. The understanding of the importance of gender aspects especially with regard to animal husbandry practices has opened up new opportunities for female veterinarians to work in extension services and as health promoters. The access to further education is the key to expanding their professional perspectives.

John Fisher

"Every man his own farrier" in Australia: the origins and growth of a veterinary business in colonial New South Wales

The life and work is told of John Pottie (1832-1908), a Scotsman who graduated from Edinburgh Veterinary College in 1858. A year later, he contracted to provide veterinary care to a consignment of horses bound for Australia. Once there, he founded a firm that has survived to the present day, still marketing products that originated in his own veterinary remedies.

John Pottie brought with him a European tradition of livestock care and treatment that was epitomised in Clater's title and book, Every man his own farrier. His career is of interest for several reasons. Firstly it is because he used this tradition to launch a business enterprise in a new and different market in Australia. Secondly, although his training lay in what may be termed the pre-scientific era of the profession's history, he was able to adapt old traditions successfully to the changes that came in the age of Pasteur and Koch. Finally, the manner in which he did this, besides demonstrating his business acumen, also shows how the professional veterinary qualification gained in value in a new age of science.