Friday, 29 May 2009

It shouldn't happen to a vet

I’ve just read The Several lives of a Victorian vet by Jean Ware and Hugh Hunt, covering the career of Griffith Evans.
Evans arrived in Bombay in 1877 at the instigation of Queen Victoria’s Principal Veterinary Surgeon, and began work on anthrax at Sialkot. He was the first man to diagnose the disease in India and went on to discover the pathogenic trypanosome which caused the disease surra (meaning “gone rotten”). In 1880 he wrote his Report on surra disease, but his colleagues regarded him as a “crank”, and the Governor-General lamented that Evans had not managed to find a cure in the 4 week period he’d been given to research the disease.
Evans’ hope of being promoted to Principal Veterinary Surgeon of India was dashed when he was effectively banished to Madras.
Evans was serving as a Veterinary Surgeon in poor, hot conditions and trying to promote his findings on surra. Evans describes his daily work in trying to locate the surra parasite, “I had to work with the microscope for many hours a day out-of-doors at the sick lines, or else in a stable, when the thermometer was 82 degrees within a cool bungalow, and the sun pouring down its rays through a cloudless sky…very few investigators know what that means.”
However in the early 1880’s John Henry Steel (pictured courtesy of BVC), of Bombay Veterinary College, hailed Evans as the discoverer of the surra microbe. Abroad, Pasteur and Koch had also taken notice of Evans’ work and in 1883 Evans was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, leaving India a year later. Steel’s own report on a fatal disease among transport mules in Burma contains Evans' original surra findings and is part of the Veterinary project I am working on.

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