From Osler to Olafson. The evolution of veterinary pathology in North America

Can J Vet Res. 1987 Jan;51(1):1-26.


Most branches of biological science in North America developed first in the United States, and later were taught and practiced in Canada. An exception was veterinary pathology, which as a discipline taught in veterinary colleges and as a field of research, developed first in Canada, and from there crossed the border to the United States. Pathology was first taught at the Montreal Veterinary College, founded in 1866 by Duncan McEachran, a graduate of the Edinburgh Veterinary College. From the outset, he formed a close association with the medical faculty of McGill University, permitting his students to attend the same classes in the basic subjects with the medical students. Eventually, the Montreal Veterinary College became formally affiliated with McGill University, as the Faculty of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Science. The McGill veterinary faculty was forced to close for economic reasons in 1903, but it left an enduring legacy, particularly in the field of veterinary pathology. The legacy, a novel concept in the 1870's, was that pathology was the cornerstone of a veterinary education; the place where anatomy, physiology, chemistry and botany met with the clinical subjects, and gave the latter meaning. This tradition was formed at the Montreal Veterinary College by the world renowned physician William Osler, North America's leading medical teacher, whom McEachran had invited to teach at the College in 1876 in addition to his duties in the faculty of medicine. Osler had studied with Virchow in Berlin and applied his methods of autopsy technique and of scientific inquiry to his teaching of both human and veterinary pathology at McGill. Osler also undertook investigations into various diseases of domestic animals, at the request of McEachran, who doubled as Chief Veterinary Inspector for the Dominion Department of Agriculture. Osler left McGill University in 1884. Only after that year did other North American veterinary schools adopt pathology as a discipline of instruction. However, by 1884, Osler had already left his indelible imprint on the students (both medical and veterinary) he had taught in Montreal, one of whom took over the teaching of pathology in the veterinary college. Another, who followed Osler's example and also studied in Berlin with Virchow, wrote the first book in the English language on veterinary post mortem technique in 1889.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biographies as Topic
  • Canada
  • Education, Veterinary / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Pathology, Veterinary / history*
  • United States

Personal name as subject

  • W Osler