Send to

Choose Destination
Hist Philos Life Sci. 2009;31(3-4):355-76.

The animal as surgical patient: a historical perspective in the 20th century.

Author information

Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Division of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Hospital for Small Animals, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland EH25 9RG, United Kingdom.


Current veterinary history has not engaged significantly with patient histories. In many historical accounts of veterinary medicine, animal patients are backgrounded or completely invisible. Yet modern veterinary medicine, in its dominant form of companion animal practice, has become increasingly patient-centred. The modern animal patient is accorded something near full subject status in many veterinary clinical interactions. Embracing this raises issues of how to handle animals in veterinary history. Animals are the recipients of veterinary medicine, they exert agency in the clinic and field, yet they have remained problematical for the historian and sociologist, who have remained anthropocentric in orientation. This paper explores different constructions of the veterinary surgical patient in the 20th century in an attempt to begin examination of veterinary history as an animal-patient history "from below." In doing so, a trajectory of the development of British 20th-century veterinary medicine is presented which suggests the value of minding animals in historical accounts. Further interdisciplinary studies of veterinary procedures and practices are needed in order to foreground animals more and evaluate their subject status within historical and contemporary veterinary medicine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center