sealPurdue News

March 1, 1996

Prof's book charts people and animals through history

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University faculty member's new book, "Veterinary Medicine, An Illustrated History," is really a history of the interaction between people and animals.

"I feel it could be argued that the history of humankind is closely linked to the history of man's fascination and interaction with animals," Professor David J. Williams says of the 704-page volume. "The book is really about the story of the human-animal bond. That's how I envisioned it from the beginning. While significant, the history of the veterinary medical profession happens to be only a part of that story.

"The book traces the domestication of animals, the first record of animal doctors in ancient Mesopotamia and the development of veterinary medicine up to the present day."

Williams is director of medical illustration and communications in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine. The 9-1/4-inch by 12-1/4-inch book, with 529 illustrations, was published by Mosby-Year Book Inc., a medical publisher based in St. Louis. The work is the first of its kind in English.

It was one of two finalists for the Literary Market Place Award in scholarly publishing. The award is sponsored by R. Bowker, the company that publishes the Literary Market Place reference works in libraries. The finalists were chosen from more than 1,000 entries nationwide. The winner was a Princeton University Press book on the papers of Albert Einstein and Woodrow Wilson.

Williams is co-author with Dr. Robert H. Dunlop, professor of veterinary public health and director of graduate studies in veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota. Dunlop is an authority on the history of veterinary medicine.

Williams, an award-winning author whose research interests include the history of art in medicine and science, says he undertook the project because of its potential to produce a truly beautiful book. "The history of humans and animals has been documented in a vast collection of fine art, and I knew I could draw on that body of work," he says. The book is lavishly illustrated with pictures he researched and interpreted.

"It's great reading because in many ways the growth and development of civilization have been spurred and accompanied by the human-animal bond," Williams says.

For example, he says, agriculture would not have developed as rapidly if it were not for animals pulling plows and other equipment. The development of the harness made it possible for man to utilize animal power, much like the invention of the sail provided wind power. Bacteriology and other scientific areas beneficial to humans developed largely because of scientists' efforts to control or wipe out animal diseases such as hog cholera, swine fever and rabies.

The book traces the uses of beasts of burden in war and in peace -- especially in agriculture and as part of spectator sport. The volume goes from animal care in ancient cultures to the flowering of medical sciences in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It follows the development of formal educational programs in veterinary medicine in Europe and the creation of schools of veterinary medicine in the United States after passage of the Morrill Act of 1862, which created U.S. land-grant institutions. One chapter is devoted to Charles Darwin and his work on evolution.

"One aspect I hadn't fully appreciated was the key role animals played in war, wars that shaped our history," Williams says. "Warriors who were master horsemen, like the Mongols, had a distinct advantage over those who were not.

"The person who could keep the horses in good health was prized by the leaders, and every great military leader had his equine physician."

Among the book's illustrations are centuries-old woodcuts and engravings from rare books instructing the reader on everything from taking a horse's blood pressure to how to use leeches in treating animal and human maladies. Also included are Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of cats in different positions and of a human infant in the womb, a Norman Rockwell painting of a young boy and his dog visiting the veterinarian, and a photograph by Harold Edgerton, who pioneered stop-action photography, of a cowboy on a bucking horse.

"There is a wealth of fine art that beautifully demonstrates the bond between people and animals," Williams says. "The marvelous cave paintings of animals done by early man are just the beginning of a plethora of sumptuous art that readily shows man's fascination with and love for animals."

Williams searched for much of the appropriate art by visiting museums, galleries, libraries and special collections throughout the world. Through the Internet, he accessed on-line collections at museums such as the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division in Bethesda, Md.

"I reviewed literally a million pieces of art," Williams says. "We worked hard to make the art and text complement each other well."

To order "Veterinary Medicine: An Illustrated History," at $79.95, call (800) 426-4545. The book also is available at most bookstores.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A black-and-white drawing of a man holding a sick porpoise is available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096. Ask for the drawing called Animal Book/Williams.

Source: David Williams, (765) 494-1156; home, (765) 463-0277; Internet,

Writer: Ellen Rantz, (765) 494-2073; home, (765) 497-0345; Internet,

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