15 – Letter to Fred Bullock from Frederick Smith, 7 Mar 1920

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13 – Letter to Frederick Smith from Fred Bullock, 13 Jun 1921

Terms of Use
The copyright of this material belongs to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. It is available for reuse under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-commercial license.

A green monkey, a baboon and…

Skeleton of Eclipse in the RCVS Museum

Skeleton of Eclipse in the RCVS Museum

The story of the RCVS Museum Collection is not particularly well known –  any attention it has received focussing on its most famous ‘resident’ the skeleton of Eclipse (donated in 1871 by Professor John Gamgee.)  This is a shame as it housed a number of other interesting items, as a glance at the catalogue (item id 26652) compiled by Edward Reuben Edwards in December 1891 reveals.

The majority of items listed relate to horses, sheep and cattle but more exotic species are present – the first items are an ‘entire preparation of a green monkey’ and ‘the skull of a baboon’.  Later on we come to the ‘skull of a polar bear’ and, my personal favourite, the ‘trachea of the first giraffe ever brought to England.’  The human animal is also represented by a ‘human eyelid’ and eight skulls amongst other things.

It appears that the care of the Museum Collection was not one of the College’s priorities.  It took 27 years from the first recorded donation to the formation of the Museum Committee, in 1880. Whilst the first official record of the committee meeting is in August 1889 – nine years later.

This first meeting happened at a time when the Museum was described by Council as being in an ‘unsatisfactory state.’   There were two further meetings in the next nine months, with Council granting £100 to be spent on ‘repairs and other requisites’ and Mr Edward’s appointment at a salary of £3 3/- per week.

Preface of the 1891 museum catalogue

Preface of the 1891 museum catalogue

In the preface to the catalogue, Edwards’ laments that “compiling this catalogue has been a work attended by several difficulties, chief amongst which – perhaps – has been the almost entire absence of any history of the individual specimens.”  In fact, he did not include any item that was unidentifiable, with the result that the catalogue only contains 334 items, whilst the RCVS annual reports for 1853-1891 record almost 500 donations.  One notable absence in the catalogue is Eclipse!

Fast forward another 10 or so years and it appears that the Museum and its contents have once more fallen from the radar.  On the 11 April 1902 Council member Professor Albert Mettam says:

“is the Museum Committee ornamental or is it useful. Does it ever meet, or has it anything to do with the museum?  I was in the museum this morning and I think it is more a place to set potatoes in than anything else.” 1

In view of this somewhat chequered history it is little wonder that, in 1925, the RCVS gave up on its ambition to maintain a museum and agreed to disperse the specimens.

Why not check out the list of some of the more interesting donations to the museum that we have compiled from the annual reports and the catalogue?

1. Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons: report of quarterly meeting of Council.  Veterinary Record  19 April 1902 p654

Celebrating women’s achievements

Thousands of events will take place around the world tomorrow to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD).  This day has been observed, in one incarnation or another, for over 100 years.   Today, IWD celebrates women’s achievements and looks forward to a bright, safe and equal future for women.

Over the next few days the Library blog will feature two guest posts, on ‘Equal pay for equal work’ for female veterinary surgeons, from Julie Hipperson, PhD student at Imperial College London.  The RCVS Charitable Trust, in collaboration with Imperial College London and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), are supporting Julie’s PhD entitled ‘Veterinary training and veterinary work: a female perspective, 1919 -2000.’  You can follow Julie’s work here, on her blog, Pioneers and Professionals.

In honour of IWD, the Library has designed a small display that showcases our extensive archive on the first female president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), Dame Olga Uvarov, a Russian refugee.

Peeping behind the curtains: a look at our Historical Collection

Curious about what we keep behind our doors? Intrigued about the beginnings of theGuide to The RCVS Collection veterinary profession? Want to know the origins of the RCVS Presidential Regalia? We cover all that and more in an exciting new publication which the Trust and the RCVS have recently produced.

The RCVS Collection: paintings, artefacts, presidential regalia, books and archives is a full colour booklet which gives readers a chance to discover more about the books and journals, archival material and portraits and paintings that form the Historical Collection of the RCVS.

This important Collection can be found on the walls of Belgravia House, on display in the library and even hidden behind the curtains in the cupboards in the Members Room.

Copies of The RCVS Collection can be purchased from our online shop or by contacting Beccy on 020 7202 0721 or price £5 plus p&p.

Want to find out more about the Collection or see the items themselves?  Contact Clare on 020 7202 0710 or

Honouring our ‘professional brethren on the Continent’

Nominations are currently been sought for RCVS Honorary Fellowship or Honorary Associateship.

These prestigious honours have a long history.  The  RCVS has had the power to bestow them since the Supplemental Charter of 1876, with the first Honorary Associateships made  in 1880.

The minutes of the Council meeting of 29 July record President George Fleming’s opening remarks in which he gives an account of his attendance at an International Veterinary Conference in Brussels.  He had been invited to attend in a private capacity and remarked that “the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons was not known on the Continent, and was not in any way recognised”. He thought that the “time had come when they should elect some of their professional brethren on the Continent as Honorary Fellows of the Royal College.”

Closing the meeting, Fleming gives notice of a motion that he will bring to the next meeting: “he will bring forward the names of certain gentlemen… and move that they will be elected Honorary Fellows”.  This he duly did at the Council meeting on 13 October of that year.  Interestingly, the motion he actually laid proposed that the gentlemen be elected as Honorary Associates of the College and not Honorary Fellows.

So who was on the list of names?  Well there was 67 of them – a fact that gave cause to some discussion in Council, with one member saying the President would “do better… to select some of the names” to which Fleming replied that they were all eminent and to select a few would have “appeared invidious.”    Fleming might have had a point as the list includes the Professors or Directors of most of the European veterinary schools as well as several principal veterinary surgeons in the armies of Europe.  I wonder if the attendance list of the Conference in Brussels was the basis for Fleming’s selection?

Section of the list of Honorary Associates 1880

Section of the list of Honorary Associates 1880

Following discussion about the cost of producing and posting out the certificates (which was to mirror the certificate for the RCVS Fellowship, including a Latin inscription)  the motion was finally passed.

The full list of names was published in the Veterinary Journal and appeared in the RCVS Register of 1881 where they are named as Honorary Foreign Associates (the distinction between Honorary Associates (for UK-based individuals) and Honorary Foreign Associates was maintained until the late 1920s).

Illustration by Jean-Pierre Megnin one of the original Honorary Foreign Associates

Illustration by Jean-Pierre Megnin one of the original Honorary Foreign Associates

From a library perspective it is good to note that the ‘only’ privilege of being an Honorary Associate was free use of the library and museum (the privileges were modelled on those offered by the Royal College of Surgeons to their honorary members).

I’d like to think they appreciated this benefit – they certainly added to the collections as we have copies of books written by these gentleman in the Historical Collection – signed ‘with the compliments of the author’.    I have often wondered what the connection was – now I know.

Making history: UK’s first black vet

October is Black History Month so this seems an appropriate time to look at the life and work of Jotello Soga the first black member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Jotello Festiri Soga  (1865-1906) was born in the Transkei, South Africa, the fifth son of the Reverend Tiyo Soga.  Reverend Soga had been educated in Scotland and it followed that all his surviving sons were sent to the Dollar Academy in Fife.  Soga then went to the Dick Veterinary School in Edinburgh to study, graduating in April 1886.  On graduation he become the first black member of the RCVS and also the first South African-born qualified veterinary surgeon.

Soga's entry in the RCVS roll of members

Soga’s entry in the RCVS roll of members

After qualifying he returned to South Africa, and then, in November 1889, he was appointed by Duncan Hutcheon, Chief Veterinary Surgeon of the Cape Colony, as ‘junior veterinary surgeon’ with responsibility for the veterinary services in the Victoria East region.

Here he worked on a programme of inoculation against lung sickness in cattle and developed his interest in bacteriology. Then Rinderpest broke out in 1896, decimating herds across the continent.  The treatment and eradication of this highly infectious disease was to occupy the rest of Soga’s  career with the Colonial  Veterinary Services.  In  1896 he attended the conference that was arranged to discuss how to tackle the outbreak, and then worked in the laboratory set up as a result.  It was at this lab that he met Robert Koch who was visiting to try out his possible cures and serum immunisation method.

For the most part, though, Soga and Hutcheon worked in the field shooting cattle, often working excessively long hours.

In the Cape of Good Hope Board of Agriculture’s Report of the Colonial Veterinary Surgeon and the assistant veterinary surgeons for the year 1897 Soga writes about his experience with rinderpest:

“It was noticeable the peculiar direction the plague took, viz, down the course of the rivers and valleys…the ways in which the plague is carried from place to place are varied and extraordinary…it was supposed that the long leaps…[were] due to birds, but these outbreaks in almost every instance could be traceable to man”

Speaking of the efficacy of the inoculation programme he writes:

“The first inoculation was not always sufficient to render immunity complete, hence it was repeated…on recurrence any cases were generally of an exceptionally mild character.”

This strain of this exhausting work took its toll on both Soga and Hutcheon and they both took sick leave and then eventually resigned.

Soga continued to work as a vet in private practice and to write articles particularly for the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope.  He co-founded the Cape Colony Veterinary Society in 1905and died aged 41 in 1906.  Soga had married Catherine Watson Chalmers, who came from Edinburgh, they had three daughters Catherine, Doris and Margaret.

Soga appears to have been forgotten by history so much so that Arnold Theiler , who is considered to be the father of veterinary science in South Africa,  named TJ Viljoen as the first South African  veterinarian. In fact Viljoen graduated in 1912 some 26 years after Soga.

Happily he has been ‘rediscovered’ and  is remembered in the naming of the Jotello F Soga Library  at the University of Pretoria,  and with an annual award from the South African Veterinary Association, the Soga Medal, which is given to veterinary students or veterinarians in “recognition of exceptional community service rendered by a veterinarian or a veterinary student”.

Changing times

The editorial in the issue of The Veterinary Record published 100 years ago today was titled  ‘Some changes in our profession’.  In it the author links the noticeable decline in equine veterinary work to the development of ‘motor traction’ but also notes that:

“new channels of work are opening up to us in compensation…The two chief substitutes are canine and feline practice and preventive medicine.”

The editorial then describes the ‘immense’ expansion of work with dogs and cats in the last thirty years, how almost every practice now treats these animals and how the knowledge of canine and feline  diseases and treatments  has grown.

Looking at the statistics on horse ownership in the decade prior to 1912 we can see just how much impact the growth in motorised transportation had.  In 1904 there was an estimated 145,000 horses in London, many of which were owned by the London General Omnibus Company for use in its fleet of horse drawn buses.  By 1911 the LGOC was selling off horses at a rate of 100 a week and ran its last horse bus in September of that year.

Given that scale of change it was inevitable that veterinary surgeons had to look for other sources of income and the increase in the keeping of dogs, in particular, as companion animals offered one such opportunity.  However the interest in the care of small animals began 50 or so years earlier and  had been increasingly reflected in the literature from the mid 1800s.

Frontispiece from Mayhew's Dogs: their management

Frontispiece from Mayhew’s Dogs: their management

In 1847 Edward Mayhew wrote two articles in The Veterinarian relating to dogs and cats, then in the following year in an article he disclosed that canine work formed the bulk of his practice.  His book Dogs: their management, published in 1854, could perhaps be seen as the start of a new focus for the profession.

Further books followed eg John Woodroffe Hill’s The management and diseases of the dog (1878) and John Henry Steel’s A treatise on the diseases of the dog (1888).  The first specific text on small animal surgery was Frederick Hobday’s Canine and feline surgery (1900).

These changes were also reflected in the subjects of theses submitted for the award of RCVS Fellowship – from 1893-1911 there were 5 theses on small animals topics, between 1912-1931 the number almost trebled.

Moving forward nearly a 100 years statistics in the 2010 RCVS Survey of the veterinary profession show that 72% of the time of veterinary surgeons working in clinical practice is spent working with small animals.

 So the  1912 editorial was correct in its prediction that small animal practice would continue to increase and in its confident assertion that:

“we have become of real use to a section of the community very much larger than the horse-owning one and shall continue to be so.”

My lords, ladies and gentlemen…

Tonight the RCVS President will welcome to the College a group of those who have helped it run smoothly over the last year. Invitees to the President’s Reception include examiners, those involved with the Practice Standards Scheme, members of the House of Lords and House of Commons, presidents of the veterinary and veterinary nursing associations and many others without whom the College could not perform its key functions.

It’s an annual social event that many look forward to, but looking back in the records we find that the first presidential social event happened on the 14 December 1854 (a year after the RCVS acquired its first permanent home) when William Field welcomed over 150 guests to a ‘converzasione’  in 10 Red Lion Square.

The Veterinarian* gives a full account of what appears to have been a grand affair.  The guests were from a wide variety of backgrounds including members of parliament, artists, fellows of the Royal Society, surgeons, physicians … and even a few vets!  Famous names included Sir Edwin Landseer, Michael Faraday, Edwin Lankester, and the Honorable Arthur Kinnaird

Many of the guests brought artefacts with them so that

“on the walls were hung many valuable paintings by Sir E. Landseer,  J. Ward, R.A. and others.”

And the tables were

“covered with microscopes, stereoscopes and photographic drawings.”

There were objects from the museum of the Royal Veterinary College, “including several of unusual occurrence, such as ossification of the brain, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, &c.”  And, in what would appear to be an early precursor of a poster presentation at a conference, “Mr James Turner suspended in the library tablets containing an account of some new ‘pathological facts’ connected with tetanus, as disclosed by the scalpel.”

Statues, ivory carvings and exotic plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens completed the scene.

So what was the point of having all these artefacts and people in one room?  It appears it was to stimulate discussion between the veterinary and medical professions.  The author of the piece gives a clue of its importance to the fledgling RCVS when he writes:

“Such associations cannot fail to promote the best interests of our profession …The free intercourse which…takes place between the members of it and the higher division of medical science…all tend to awaken thought, to stimulate further investigation, and to expand the mind…[and] a more intimate union of the two professions is thus effected.”

The event was so successful that it was repeated three months later… with different objects and different people.

These days the objects on the tables tend to be glasses of wine and canapés, but the opportunity to meet colleagues from across the profession, and from those organisations working closing with it, continues to be important.

*The Veterinarian 1 January 1855 pp 44-47

A model hoof

During the recent reordering of the RCVS headquarters a 6 inch square box was found containing a cardboard model and a folded piece of paper.  Further investigation revealed it was something rather exciting – the pasteboard model of a horse’s hoof which accompanies Bracy Clark’s two page pamphlet A new exposition of the horses’ hoof.

Bracy Clark (1771-1860), the son of a Quaker, was born in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.  According to Frederick Smith, in The early history of veterinary literature and its British Development Vol III, Clark  left school at 14 and was apprenticed to  a surgeon for seven years.    With the founding of the London Veterinary School in 1791 his thoughts turned to studying veterinary, rather than human, medicine and he enrolled at the London school some time during 1792, gaining his Diploma in July 1794.

A new exposition of the horses hoof

Signature and date

After a period touring the continent he opened a practice in Giltspur Street, London which mainly dealt with brewery horses.  Whilst in practice Clark developed an interest in shoeing, establishing a number of forges throughout the country. He was later joined at the practice by his nephew Charles Clark and appears to have retired from active work in 1828.

In retirement Clark, now settled at Taunton Street near Regents Park, devoted his energies to publishing and re-editing his own works and experimenting with shoeing.

The pamphlet found in the box A new exposition of the horses’ hoof  is dated 1820 and signed BC.   It starts:

“It would be difficult by words or description alone to convey a correct notion of the framing and construction of the Horses’ hoof: I have therefore invented a pasteboard model, which exhibits its nature and properties very familiarly.

In order to understand it, it will be necessary to take it to pieces a few times, and put it together again, when the simplicity and manner of its construction will be strongly and clearly impressed on the mind”

Model to accompany A new exposition of the horses hoof

Clark explains how to dismantle the model by withdrawing the pins (which can be seen in the photographs) and how to learn more of the structure of the hoof by studying how the labelled flaps connect and move etc.
Model to accompany A new exposition of the horses hoof

For example writing of the wall of the hoof which has been exposed by the removal of the frog and the sole from the model:

“by reversing the situation of the Bars or Inflexions,…we now discover that they are simply a continuation of the wall, obliquely growing narrower…We can now discern, that the wall and bars are one continued piece…of an obliquely cut cylinder…and the great simplicity and power of such an arrangement must call forth our exulted admiration…”

Model to accompany A new exposition of the horses hoof

The final paragraph of the pamphlet which explains how to put the model back together concludes:

“Now the Frog-band…completes the hoof: which is in fact not merely a rude covering of horn, as been apprehended, but an elastic machine, beautifully adapting itself to all degrees of exertion, or repose of the animal.”

Considering the model may be nearly 200 years old it is in very good condition – though as yet I have not been brave enough to take it apart.  This is due to the fact that it had its own lockable box – which in itself gives some indication of its value at the time the pamphlet was written.

At the moment we do not know how it comes to be in our possession but we do know that Bracy Clark  gave a complete set of his works to the RCVS library around the time he became a Vice President of the College in 1857.  So the ‘hoof’ could be Clark’s very own model, we will let you know what we find out!