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Can Vet J. Dec 2002; 43(12): 962–967.
PMCID: PMC339919

Veterinarians, the Royal Society of Canada, and the future of veterinary medicine: Part 1

Introduction

The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) was founded in 1882 with the object of promoting learning and research in the arts and sciences, one means being the election of distinguished scholars as fellows to its membership. Only 4 Canadian veterinary scientists, now deceased, have achieved this honor. They are Seymour Hadwen in 1926 (1), Thomas W.M. Cameron in 1939 (2), Edward A. Watson in 1940 (3), and Charles A. Mitchell in 1945 (4). Presently, the RSC has about 1600 members, none of whom are veterinarians (RSC, personal communication). This questionable showing by our contemporary profession may be another reflection that we are paying insufficient attention to the fact that the profession's long-term strength is rooted in biology and comparative medicine (5). I will try to make this case in the context of describing some of the accomplishments of Cameron and Hadwen (Part I), and Mitchell and Watson (Part 2), who did not make this mistake. Also, the biographies of these individuals are worth attention for their own merit.

Isaac Seymour Andre Hadwen (1877–1947)

Seymour Hadwen was a major figure in veterinary parasitology and natural history early in the twentieth century in Canada (1,6,7). He was born in England and received his early education in England and France. As a young man, working on the family farm on Vancouver Island, he pursued his interest in natural history and animals. Like William Osler, he had acquired a microscope, which reinforced this inclination. With it, he made his first medical diagnosis by finding scaly leg mites in the family farm's chickens. He associated “staggers” in horses with consumption of bracken fern in the absence of any prior medical knowledge about this syndrome. Years later, he verified this observation experimentally. His interests in natural history were reinforced by hunting and fishing, activities that became an important part of his life and remained a lifelong passion.

Despite never having met a veterinarian, his interest in animals led him to seek a career in veterinary medicine, and he graduated with a DVSc from McGill University in 1902. He promptly secured a commission as a captain in the Sixth Canadian Mounted Rifles for military service in South Africa. On his return to North America, he decided to acquire further skills in the scientific investigation of disease by working in a public health laboratory in San Francisco under the mentorship of a medical microbiologist. This pattern of using experience and mentorship, rather than formal education in postgraduate degree programs, became his norm in acquiring expertise. It may be fair to say that he became a lifelong student in nature's laboratory.

Following his experience in San Francisco, he bought a good microscope, with funds derived from the sale of land that had been given to him as a Boer War veteran's benefit, and set up a practice, which included a laboratory to make his work as scientific as possible, in Duncan, British Columbia. Not surprisingly, this approach to his work could be achieved more easily in government service, so, in 1904, he accepted a post as a veterinary inspector in Nelson, British Columbia, in the newly formed (1902) Health of Animals Branch. Here he socialized with Simon Fraser Tolmie, a veterinarian (OVC 1891) who was to become a federal minister of agriculture (1919–21) and a premier of British Columbia (1928–33). Hadwen never returned to private practice.

Hadwen served in a variety of positions in the federal Department of Agriculture, to wit in Nelson (1904), Lethbridge (1905), Agassiz (1911–1916, where he also built a laboratory), and Ottawa, where he was chief of the Division of Animal Pathology from 1917 to 1920. From 1920 to 1922, he was chief veterinarian and parasitologist in charge of reindeer investigations in Alaska for the U.S. Government. From 1923 to 1929 he served as a research professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He spent that last of his working days, 1929–1942, at the Ontario Research Foundation (ORF) directing its program in pathology and veterinary science.

In 1905, Hadwen was assigned to Lethbridge under the North-West Mounted Police to attempt the demonstration of Trypanosoma equiperdum, the trypanosome responsible for dourine, a venereal disease of horses that had been tentatively diagnosed in the area in 1904. He occupied an existing quarantine station and launched the first laboratory investigation at what was to become the Animal Disease Research Institute (ADRI) West. His initial studies were negative, which likely motivated him to ask his boss, Charles Higgins, federal Animal Pathologist, for permission to obtain more expertise with trypanosomes by moving to an Ottawa laboratory to work with A. Loir, a nephew of Pasteur, who was already working with this type of organism. His request was granted. E.A. Watson replaced Hadwen in 1906. In 1907, Watson and M.V. Gallivan succeeded in demonstrating T. equiperdum. This does not appear to have been a source of professional jealousy between Watson and Hadwen, since, in 1912, they jointly published a paper describing trypanosomes in 5 rodents, 1 rabbit, and 1 cow. Many years later, Hadwen also demonstrated trypanosomes in pesky flying squirrels that had been shot during one of his excursions into the wilderness in British Columbia.

Over the next many years, Hadwen sought out a variety opportunities to hone his research skills, gain new experience, and acquire commensurate knowledge. In 1908, he received “grudging” permission for a leave to study at the School of Tropical Medicine at Liverpool. However, red tape interfered with these plans and he wound up at Cambridge with the noted parasitologist, Professor G.F.H. Nuttal. In this laboratory, Hadwen pursued his interests in ticks (“highwaymen” as he called them) and also documented the efficacy of treating canine and bovine piroplasmosis with trypan blue, a significant advance in the young science of chemotherapy.

One suspects that Hadwen was viewed as a bit of a gadfly by his peers and that the requisite leaves-of-absence or resignations likely aggravated his employer of the time. His travels over his lifetime were so extensive and to sufficiently exotic places that he was characterized as an “explorer” by some. It has been opined that he had the 7-year itch every 2 years. In response to being publicly introduced as a “drifter” at a banquet, he pointed out that while a rolling stone gathers no moss “it gets a hell of a good polish.” His travels were undertaken in the belief that “nothing can stop a man if he really wants to do research.”

Hadwen published over 70 papers, 45 in the domain of parasitology. These are all listed in an obituary published in the Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine (6). It is reasonable to attribute his success to his keen powers of observation and hands-on approach that arose from his interest in natural history. Most of his work is focused on taxonomy and the life cycles of parasites; the more important include the following: treatment of piroplasmosis, warble fly life history, tick classification, tick paralysis, Gastrophilus life history, and trypanosome classification. Ticks were a special fascination and he seems to have been the most knowledgeable Canadian authority on this subject during much of his lifetime. In his memoirs, he records that he described 17 species in Canada, most of which were collected from wildlife. He reproduced tick paralysis in the laboratory and gave name to this syndrome. Some of the nonparasitic diseases that caught Hadwen's attention were the following: swamp fever, enzootic hematuria and mastitis in cattle, and bracken fern poisoning in horses. He reproduced the latter disease in horses in the laboratory in 1914–1915, thereby confirming the etiology of this disease.

Hadwen's sojourn in Alaska enabled him to become knowledgeable about parasites in and the management of reindeer. Subsequently, he consulted with a variety of agencies in both Canada and northern Europe on these subjects. Not surprisingly, his travels in the North, of necessity, involved dog sledding, and this experience engendered a scholarly interest in the biology of dog breeds adapted to a cold climate. A unique experience in the North occurred when he was called on to demonstrate his resourcefulness and capability by removing the appendix from a reindeer herdsman “using ordinary kitchen utensils” (Hadwen family, personal communication).

The federal government evinced its esteem for Hadwen's scientific credentials by engaging him as a consultant for a variety of problems after he had left its employ. He was called on to investigate tuberculosis in the Wainwright bison herd in 1923 and confirmed the presence of this disease by extensive postmortem investigations. This was before the decision was taken to transfer elements of this herd to Wood Buffalo Park, a move he had misgivings about. His subsequent studies in 1938 documented that the disease continued to be a big problem in the residual herd in Wainwright. This herd was then slaughtered. The presence of tuberculosis in National Park bison was kept secret from the public until 1940, seemingly as a matter of government policy. Hadwen published the results of his studies of bison in 1942 when the gag was lifted. He also consulted for the National Research Council in 1929 when he was asked to investigate reproductive problems in livestock in Trail, British Columbia, that were allegedly caused by emissions from a smelter.

Hadwen bodes to be the one of the first veterinary scientists in Canada to take an active interest in wildlife diseases, parasitology, or both, as his extensive studies of reindeer and bison attest. In addition to work on trypanosomes and ticks from wildlife, he reported Fascioloides magna in deer in British Columbia in 1916 and studied a tapeworm of porcupines. He investigated mountain goats in British Columbia as possible reservoirs of foot and mouth disease. His family recall trips to such disparate environments as Algonquin Park and the swamps of Louisiana to investigate wildlife diseases.

Hadwen does not appear to have actively engaged in the politics of veterinary medicine. However, in 1929, he chaired a meeting in Medicine Hat that established a Western Canada Veterinary Medical Association, whose larger purpose was to promote the establishment of a national professional organization (8). This Association languished through the depression and war years but emerged to play a strong role in forging the new Canadian Veterinary Medical Association in 1949 under the leadership of B.I. Love (9).

Through his many travels, Hadwen maintained active contacts with scientists in the USA, Europe, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. He had strong ties to the parasitology establishment in Washington and traveled there often on business or in his spare time. Hadwen certainly acquired a laudable international reputation. He was actively considered for a professorship at Cambridge in 1923, and while he did not get this appointment, his subsequent election to fellowship in the RSC in 1926, while at the University of Saskatchewan, indicates the esteem of the Canadian scientific establishment. Thus, he became the first veterinary scientist so honored.

Notwithstanding this international reputation, his obituary in the Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine gives praise that is sufficiently faint that one is tempted to believe that Hadwen's scientific output was a disappointment to the veterinary establishment, especially after he came to the Ontario Research Foundation (ORF). Here he spent time studying phenomena like the biology of coat color in rabbits, a pursuit that would seem not to have been deemed important in veterinary circles. In a posthumous tribute read to the ORF Board of Governors, H.B. Spackman, the director of ORF, notes that it was Hadwen's interest in this subject that led to his being considered for appointment to the staff of ORF. It is likely that Hadwen's administrative duties at ORF would have made it difficult for him to capitalize on his talents in parasitological fieldwork. His obituary in the Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine states, “…one cannot escape the feeling that had Dr. Hadwen been given the opportunity of devoting all his time to this type of investigation (natural history), he would have made a contribution unsurpassed in modern times.” It goes on to gently chide, “his studies were pursued in general without thought of practical results and, therefore in some instances they will not affect the economy of the country although they add to our general store of knowledge.”

Hadwen was likely the Canadian veterinarian of his time to be most honored by the scientific community. His honors included honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, fellow of the Entomological Society of England, as well as fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He also served as a vice-president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

What made Hadwen a good investigator? He attributed his success in research to his keen powers of observation that were acquired by conscious effort. Perhaps his genes were also helpful in that Charles Mitchell deemed him a “born naturalist”(1)! Hadwen's original and meticulous work in unraveling the life history of Hypoderma bovis, a major problem of the livestock industry for his time, is a good example of his prowess.

Hadwen embraced comparative medicine and asserts there are many valuable lessons for human medicine to be learned from its veterinary sibling. He gives this as one of the main reasons for writing his memoirs. Also, he urges the veterinarian to “branch out” from the more conventional purely medical interests to becoming “an animal husbandman, a geneticist, an entomologist or a zoologist.”

Thomas W.M. Cameron (1894–1980)

Cameron (2,10) was born and educated in Scotland, which suggests he was cut from the same cloth as Andrew Smith, Duncan McEachran, and James Law, other Scots who made such seminal contribution to the establishment and development of veterinary medicine in Canada and the USA. He attended the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh where he received his several degrees (BSc in veterinary science; MA and PhD in parasitology, and DSc in zoology). He became an MRCVS in 1923. He also engaged in periods of study at Oxford and London Universities. His education was interrupted by 5 years of military service; in the Highland Light Infantry from 1914 to 1916 and as a captain in the Royal Flying Corps from 1916 to 1919. In the United Kingdom, he held several appointments: the Institute of Agricultural Parasitology, London, 1923–1925; the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 1925–1929; and the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, 1929–1932. Cameron was appointed the founding director of the Institute of Parasitology, Macdonald College, McGill University in 1932, a position he held until 1964. “Under his guidance the Institute became a world renown centre for research in parasitology attracting students, post-doctoral fellows, and visiting researchers from many parts of the globe” (10).

Cameron attributed the idea for the creation of an Institute of Parasitology, in the first instance, to William Osler (11). In 1907, Osler wrote to J.W. Robertson, principal of the newly founded Macdonald College, describing a “chat” with Sir William Macdonald wherein he raised the “possibility of organizing, in connection with the Agricultural College, an extensive department of medical zoology in which the whole subject of parasitism could be considered.” Furthermore, he indicates that he also “promised him to get a scheme from Stiles, of Washington, who is certainly the leading expert on parasites in the English speaking world.” As a consequence, C.W. Stiles prepared an extensive memorandum in which he recommended that the proposed institute “should be formed on broad lines so that investigations might be made into the zoo-parasitic diseases of fish, of domesticated and wild animals, and of man.” He also recommended that the proposed unit pay particular interest to parasitism in northern latitudes and predicted that it would be fruitful endeavor, as indeed it proved to be.

The Institute of Parasitology did not become a reality until 1932, but it has lived up to the earlier aspirations of Osler and Stiles. Its ultimate establishment was the end result of a concern about parasitism in domestic animals expressed by several members of the McGill Faculty of Agriculture (Charles Tanner, personal communication). This is congruent with other evidence that the economic importance of parasitic disease became more widely recognized in the 1920s (12).

Given Cameron's commitment to comparative medicine, it is not surprising that he took pains to point out connections between Osler and the Institute, parasitology, and himself. While Osler was at McGill, he had signed some of his papers as “Lecturer in Helminthology, Montreal Veterinary College,” which prompted Cameron to claim Osler “as the first of my distinguished predecessors at McGill University,” a pedigree also claimed for a line of eminent veterinary pathologists (13). In an address to the American Society of Parasitologists on his election to the presidency of this organization in 1949, Cameron describes Osler's contribution to parasitology and points out the pivotal role played by his interest in natural history and comparative medicine in the success of this remarkable career (14).

Cameron's extraordinarily broad perspective on science was shared with the veterinary profession in an address on “the social importance of comparative medicine and veterinary science” to the first meeting of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association in 1950 (15). Herein, he championed the importance of comparative medicine, the scientific method, the need for a preliminary liberal education in teaching veterinary students how to think, high standards of professional education, and the critical importance of biology in advancing the welfare of the human race. He also wrote articles on general veterinary issues, such as, “what is veterinary medicine?” (16) and “veterinary education in Canada” (17).

Cameron published some 200 articles on a wide range of medical and biological subjects. He was primarily a helminthologist and his interests extended to embrace human, domestic animal, fish, wildlife, and purely zoological parasitology. To illustrate his broad biological mindset, one can point to his interest in evolution and his early support for the hypothesis of continental drift and plate tectonics. He called attention to the fact that similar parasites were found in similar ecological niches in Africa and South America. He speculated about global warming and predicted the possibility of the climate in northern Canada approaching that of Texas (15). In contrast to such global or grand ideas, he published more mundane articles like one about diseases carried by house mice (18).

Notably, Cameron authored or edited 6 books that demonstrate the breadth and depth of his expertise. The subjects covered were the principles of parasite control (19), the parasites of man in temperate climates (20), the parasites of domestic animals (21), parasites and parasitism (22), evolution (23), and energy flow in biological systems (24).

Cameron was among those who dispelled the myth that parasitism was largely a problem of the tropics. Cameron and his colleagues and associates conducted extensive surveys of parasitism in the North. Members of his institute participated in scientific teams aboard the ship “Nascopie” in its travels in the eastern arctic.

It is fair to conjecture that Cameron did not acquire his scientific reputation by focused studies of specific problems at the laboratory bench. Rather his forte in science was the ability to compile, analyze, synthesize, and generalize. Ewing (25) points out that his description of the life cycle of Dicrocelium dendriticum (26) was flawed and corrected by Wendell Krull, another eminent veterinary parasitologist and naturalist.

Worthy of mentioning, is that the Institute was particularly prominent in providing graduate research training to veterinarians, as well as biologists. Cameron recruited and supported graduate students, most, if not all, of whom made remarkable contributions to veterinary medicine, perhaps his most important gift to the profession. His style in relation to graduate students could be autocratic, but it appears that he gave them the freedom to pursue their own academic interests. About 50 students received either an MSc, PhD, or both, degrees during Cameron's tenure as director. Among veterinarians who received degrees from the Institute are the following (Institute of Parasitology, personal communication): Trevor Jones (1935, MSc); Henry Griffiths (1935, MSc; 1939, PhD); William E. Swales (1935, PhD); Laurent Choquette (1942, MSc; 1953, PhD); C.A.V Barker (1945, MSc); Julius Frank (1947, MSc); Irvin Moynihan (1947, MSc); Robert Connell (1949, MSc); W.T. Oliver (1951, MSc.; 1953, PhD); and Harold Gibbs (1959, PhD).

Throughout his career, Cameron was active in many scientific societies, often in a leadership role. These activities spanned both medical and biological science and demonstrate his appreciation for comparative medicine. The following posts illustrate the remarkable range of his interests and the esteem of his colleagues: honorary secretary, Section of Comparative Medicine, British Medical Association Centenary (1932); secretary, Tropical Diseases Section and vice-president, Comparative Medicine Section, Royal Society of Medicine (1926–1929); secretary, Edinburgh Branch (1929–1932) and secretary, Canadian Branch, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene; president, American Society of Parasitologists (1949); president, Royal Society of Canada (1957–1958); president, Canadian Society of Microbiologists (1960); president, Canadian Society of Zoologists (1961–1962); president, World Federation of Parasitologists (1964–1970); chair, International Committee on the Control of Parasitic Diseases; member/chair, Associate Committee on Parasitology and Aquatic Biology, National Research Council (1932–1964); member, Fisheries Research Board of Canada (1954–63); member, Panel on Marine Environment, American Geographical Society; chair, Canadian Committee for the International Biological Program (1967–1974); and consultant to the Department of Health and Welfare, the Canadian Forces Medical Council, the USA National Institutes of Health, and the World Heath Organization.

Cameron also found time for significant editorial work. He variously served as an abstractor for the Bulletin of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases; an editorial associate for Helminthological Abstracts, a publication he helped to found (10); an associate editor for the Canadian Journal of Microbiology (1954–61); a cofounder and member or chair of the editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine (1937–1957); and editor of the Canadian Journal of Zoology (1956–1971).

In addition to his military service in the United Kingdom during World War I, Cameron was also a member of the Officer Training Corps at the University of Edinburgh from 1920 to 1923 and of the Royal Veterinary Corps from 1923 until he left the United Kingdom. He continued his involvement in military matters in Canada by serving in the Officers Reserve from 1933 to 1954; as commanding officer Macdonald College Canadian Officers Training Corps from 1939 to 1941; and as an instructor in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1941 to 1945. He also served as a consultant to the Canadian Forces Medical Council.

Cameron received another recognition from the RSC in addition to fellowship and its presidency (1957–1958); namely, its Flavelle Medal. While most of his honors were from outside the veterinary profession, the Quebec College of Veterinary Surgeons awarded him their prestigious Medaille St. Eloi (1958), as well as honorary membership, and the veterinary profession in the United Kingdom recognized him with honorary membership in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (1963).

Other honors in the United Kingdom included fellowships in The Royal Society of Medicine and The Royal Society of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine, and the Territorial Decoration (1933). He became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Canadian citizenship awards included the Centennial Medal of Canada (1967) and the Order of Canada (1972). He received honorary degrees from the Universities of British Columbia (DSc) and Venezuela (Dip. Hos.) and honorary memberships in the Canadian Society of Zoologists (1966) and the Parasitology Section of Canadian Society of Zoologists (1978). The Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada published an issue in his honor in 1969.

In summary, Cameron's accomplishments, honors, and leadership in scientific associations attest to his eminence as a scientist and to the notion that veterinary medicine has much to gain and contribute by much closer association with the biological sciences.

Discussion

It can be argued that Thomas W.M. Cameron, who became a president (1957) of the RSC, was the most outstanding Canadian veterinary scientist of the twentieth century. Certainly, he was the most lauded by organizations outside our profession. Thus, it is surprising, if not astounding, that his death in 1980 did not even merit an obituary in either of the 2 Canadian veterinary journals, including the one he helped to found, namely the Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine, now the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. Furthermore, he was never awarded life membership in the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) or an honorary degree from a university with a veterinary faculty. Why did veterinarians like me not nominate him for such richly deserved honors? Is it because our professional culture is so inward looking and narrow that we have lost sight of the basic importance of biology and comparative medicine to our profession?

It is noteworthy that Hadwen and Cameron, as parasitologists, had particularly strong links to biology. Historically, parasitology has been a key, if not a dominant, motivation for both veterinary scientists and biologists with interest in disease to undertake studies involving wildlife and natural history. One presumes this was because 1) parasites have fascinating life cycles involving several hosts, 2) parasites can be discerned by normal eyesight or by simple microscopy, and 3) parasites are a means for indulging a passion for natural history.

There is a sharp contrast in Hadwen's and Cameron's paths to recognition by the RSC. They were 2 very different scientists. Cameron acquired all the formal qualifications and, within the Canadian scientific establishment, became an eminent statesman and organization man, as well as researcher. Hadwen appears to have been more of a loner, who qualified himself by seeking out experiences in many venues, largely shunned science politics, fostered personal relationships with other scientists, and focused his efforts on natural history and hands-on research on immediate problems, some practical, some not. In his memoirs, Hadwen confesses to being happy in his work when “not having many people working with me. The only time I had several assistants ….I accomplished very little” (7). Both men made major contributions to science, the basis of which was a strong commitment to biological sciences and comparative medicine. A narrow biomedical culture did not rule their scientific lives.

figure 31FFUA
Isaac S.A. Hadwen
figure 31FFUB
Thomas W.M. Cameron

Footnotes

Acknowledgments

The author thanks the Lethbridge Laboratory, Canadian Food Inspection Agency for providing the photograph of Seymour Hadwen and the Institute of Parisitology, Macdonald Campus, McGill University for the photograph of TWM Cameron. I also thank J. Brian Derbyshire for involving me in the C.A.V. Barker Symposium on Canadian Veterinary History in June 2001, which led to the preparation of this article.

Part Two of this article will appear in a subsequent issue.

References

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3. Swaine JM. Edward Arthur Watson (1879–1945). Proc Trans Roy Soc Canada 1945; Third Series: 39:125–126.
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20. Cameron TWM. The Parasites of Man in Temperate Climates 2nd ed. Toronto: Univ Toronto Pr, 1946.
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26. Cameron TWM. Experimental infection of sheep with Dicrocelium dendtiticum. J Helminthol 1931;9:41–44.

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