Ten Veterinarians Who Made History - Who's On Your List?

By Patty Khuly, DVM on Aug. 25, 2011

A recent post on VeterinarianTechnician.org about ten veterinarians who made history got me to thinking who’d I’d include in my top ten. And one thing’s for certain: My top-ten would look significantly different than those listed on their website. Not that I disagree with them all — but I won’t say which!

Here’s their list:

1. Bernhard Lauritz Frederik Bang (1848-1932), was a Danish veterinarian. He discovered Brucella abortus in 1897, which came to be known as Bang’s bacillus. Bang’s bacillus was the cause of the contagious Bang’s disease (now known as Brucellosis), a malady that can cause pregnant cattle to abort and that can cause undulant fever in humans. For his contributions to veterinary medicine, he received an honorary doctorate from the Veterinary College of Utrecht in 1921. Bang also is known for his work on development of a control for bovine tuberculosis, research on smallpox vaccination, and research on animal bacillary disease.

2. Louis J. Camuti (1893-1981) was the first vet to devote his entire practice to cats. Camuti began specializing in cats around 1932-33. At the time, veterinarians did not spend much time providing services to cats. He practiced veterinary medicine in New York for 60 years and wrote two books: All My Patients Are Under The Bed: Memoirs of a Cat Doctor (1980), and Park Avenue Vet (1962). He was still practicing medicine at the time of his death at the age of 87. He had a number of celebrity clients, including Olivia de Havilland, James Mason, Imogene Coca and Tallulah Bankhead. Former patients and friends honor his pioneering commitment to the health of cats through the Dr. Louis J. Camuti Memorial Fund at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Feline Health Center, which continues his life’s work.

3. Robert Cook is a noted veterinarian, especially in equine health. His focus has been on the diseases of the horse’s mouth, ear, nose and throat, and he has been published in many scientific and horse journals. In 1997 Dr. Cook met Edward Allan Buck, inventor of the "original" bitless bridle. Subsequent to that meeting Dr. Cook wrote articles and many letters regarding the bitless bridle. Dr. Cook then took the original design created by Edward Allan Buck and began to present it as his own concept. He currently proposes that the bit is the direct cause of many behavioral problems and diseases of the horse, and that it exposes both the horse and the rider to serious risk.

4. Harry Cooper, also known as Dr. Harry Cooper or simply Dr. Harry, is a famous Australian vet and TV personality. He was the resident vet on a series called Burke’s Backyard, and went on to host two shows: Talk to the Animals, and Harry’s Practice. He currently presents a segment on Better Homes and Gardens and is a public speaker and animal welfare advocate. Cooper has since been known as Australia’s favorite vet and is famous all around Australia.

5. Luke Gamble is the star of a Sky documentary series of his travels around the globe to help animals in need. He is a vet from Dorset, England who works with organizations and individuals in remote locations. The series was called The World Wild Vet, now renamed Vet Adventures. Luke is a black belt in Karate, and in 2010 was awarded the JA Wight (James Herriot) Award by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association for outstanding contributions to the welfare of companion animals. He has been CEO of Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS) for almost a decade.

6. Buster Lloyd-Jones (1914-1980), during his career, may have been the most sought-after vet in Great Britain. Buster cared for sick, injured and abandoned animals during the Second World War. He was a very kind man with a passion for animals. During the war, he kept a menagerie of abandoned animals at his house, "Clymping Dene." Buster Lloyd Jones founded Denes in 1951, which produces herbal veterinary products for animals. Buster wrote an autobiography entitled The Animals Came in One by One, and a sequel, Come into my World.

7. Emma Milne is a British vet who was rejected from five vet schools when she first applied. Then, she served as an intern and re-applied and was accepted. Shortly after her graduation, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) asked her to appear on a television show entitled Vets in Practice. She is an outspoken opponent of hunting, and is featured on a website called Emma the TV Vet.

8. Elmo Shropshire has proven that you may not get rich by becoming a vet, but you could write a song that fills the coffers. Shopshire has a degree in veterinary medicine. After graduation, he moved to California, where he opened an animal hospital, became a competitive runner, and continued to play with his bluegrass band. In 1979, Shropshire recorded Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and became an instant regional superstar. Elmo originally invested $40,000 of his own money to produce the original album and music video, and in return he’s become "a millionaire five times over."

9. Simon Fraser Tolmie (1867-1937) was a farmer, politician, the 21st Premier of the Province of British Columbia, and a veterinarian. Born in Victoria, Tolmie spent his early life on his family’s vast farm, Hillside (the Victoria neighborhood bears its name). He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1891 and later became the Dominion Inspector of Livestock. This position led to his interest in politics, and he served the rest of his life as a politician, including throughout the Great Depression.

10. Debbye Turner is an American vet, a talk show hostess and winner of the 1990 Miss America contest. After graduation from college with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, she became a spokesperson for Purina and pursued a career in veterinary medicine before going into television. Turner’s first hosting job came at St. Louis’ NBC affiliate, KSDK, on a show called Show Me St. Louis in 1995. Six years later, Turner joined CBS News as a reporter and contributor on The Early Show, a position she still holds. Turner has been dubbed The Early Show‘s resident veterinarian, sharing a wealth of advice about quality pet care. In 2002, Debbye garnered an interview with President & Mrs. Bush at the White House for a Pet Planet segment about the first family’s pets.

Here are a few of my picks:

James Herriot: This was the nom de plume of James Alfred Wight, a Scottish veterinarian born in 1916. His tales from the trenches about life as a mixed animal practitioner in the U.K. countryside convinced many of us that we’d be unlikely to find happiness unless we could live a life as colorful as his.

Baxter Black: This large-animal vet and self-styled cowboy poet is near and dear to my heart, for some odd reason I’m unable to articulate, save that his prose just gets to me. I love his wit and his writing … and his voice on NPR.

Paul Pion: He gets a lot of crap for making all kinds of innovative things happen, which probably makes this Veterinary Information Network founder one of my heroes in my profession. His VIN is the largest (by far) online network of veterinarians, but that’s not all: He was also the vet cardiologist who made the connection between the amino acid taurine and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats, thereby saving countless cat lives.

Martin Fettman: In 1993, this University of Colorado pathology professor traveled aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist, becoming the first veterinarian in space. What can I say? I have a thing for astronauts. ;-)


OK, so I’m sure there are many more unsung heroes you can add to my list. Go for it!

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: All My Patients Are Under the Bed from Open Library

veterinary books, veterinary memoirs, historical veterinarians, veterinarians who made history, famous veterinarians


Patty Khuly, DVM


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