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Penn Vet’s 125th Anniversary: School Highlights through the Years
February 10, 2009, Volume 55, No. 21


1884 The University of Pennsylvania opens the first companion-animal teaching hospital in the United States.

1891 Dr. Leonard Pearson uses tuberculin testing to control bovine tuberculosis.

1897 Augustus Lushington graduates from Penn Vet, one of the first African Americans to earn a veterinary degree.

class of 1887


Veterinary school’s first graduates, Class of 1887: Charles M. Cullen, Hiram P. Eves, Simon J. J. Harger, Richard W. Hickman, Charles Lintz, Edgar Marlin, William B. Montgomery, Even F. Vandergrift, Richard G. Webster and Charles Williams.

Veterinary school and hospital; blacksmith shop, interior; class in horseshoeing; c. 1900.

1920s The first brucellosis-free herd of cattle in the US is established by Dr. Ernest C. Deubler, V’11.

The presence of the avian influenza virus in the US is detected by Dr. Evan L. Stubbs, V’11.

1930s Dr. Stubbs begins a series of papers on leukemia in chickens; his research with Dr. Jacob Furth leads to the isolation of a strain of avian leukemia virus called Strain 13.

Dr. Alfred Kissileff, V’33, successfully produces a calf through artificial insemination, the first in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Otto Stader invents the “Stader Splint,” consisting of an adjustable metal rod with steel pins at each end for insertion in bone above and below fracture. The splint eventually was adopted for treating fractures in human patients, including soldiers during World War II.


Dr. Josephine Deubler, V’38, becomes the school’s first female graduate (at left) and serves on the School’s faculty until 1987.

1950s Dr. David K. Detweiler and Dr. John T. McGrath, V’43, begin to develop their specialties in veterinary cardiology and neuropathology, respectively.

A joint effort between Penn Vet and the Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry in Mexico is begun to research anaplasmosis in cattle.

New Bolton Center (NBC) becomes the school’s large-animal campus.

1960s Dean Mark Allam (at right) reports that in one decade the school’s research efforts had grown by 2,200 percent. The increase was due to the ability of the faculty to attract funds, and to the rearrangement of teaching responsibilities so that most basic science faculty had one semester free for research. With the growth of clinical faculty, even more research time became available.


The Georgia and Philip Hofmann Research Center is established at NBC to conduct research on the reproductive systems of animals.Penn Vet receives a training grant for the VMD-PhD Program from the National Institutes of Health. In collaboration with the medical faculty, the school trained the profession’s first full spectrum of clinical specialists as well as many veterinarian-scientists.

Drs. Robert Brodey and Lonny Rubin start the veterinary specialties of oncology and ophthalmology, respectively.
First veterinary section of medical genetics is established at Penn Vet.

1970s The school introduces a revolutionary core-elective curriculum.

The Comparative Cardiovascular Studies Unit, the Section of Medical Genetics, the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, the Center for Food Animal Health and Productivity, Aquavet (a program in aquatic veterinary medicine) and the Bovine Leukemia Research Center—all firsts—are created and well funded. Many serve as multidisciplinary models emulated by other veterinary schools.

Dr. Jacques Jenny establishes the specialty of orthopaedic surgery in horse development and use of a recovery pool for equine orthopaedic surgery, the first in the world, at NBC.


Veterinary school and hospital, exterior; unidentified men with steer in courtyard; north wing under construction (seen on right side of photo); 1908.

Veterinary school and hospital, exterior; ambulance for small animals; 1909.

1980s The first transgenic animals are developed. A team led by Dr. Richard Palmiterand Dr. Ralph Brinster fuse elements of a gene that can be regulated by dietary zinc to a rat growth-hormone gene, and inject it into fertilized mouse embryos. The resulting mice, when fed with extra zinc, grow to be huge, and the technique paves the way for a wave of genetic analysis using transgenic mice.

dean, 1994-2005

Dr. Mattie Hendrick provides the first link between vaccination and development of fibrosarcomas in cats.

dean, 2006-present

The world’s first test-tube calf, Virgil, is born. The research team is headed by Dr. Benjamin G. Brackett; this work has had significant impact on embryo transfer in livestock production.

The Pennsylvania Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission establishes the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System at NBC to provide diagnostic assistance to veterinarians involved with food-fiber animals, equine, aquaculture and wildlife. It protects animals and humans from health threats and minimizes economic loss by providing accurate diagnoses to assist the agricultural community in controlling disease.

The Inherited Eye Disease Studies Institute is established by Dr. Gustavo Aguirre, V’68.

1990s A team at NBC under the guidance of Dr. Jim Ferguson develops the concept of systematic breeding of dairy cows in an integrated program, a novel strategy then that is the basis of many programs still employed throughout the global dairy industry.

Connelly Intensive Care Unit/Graham French Neonatal Section, the first building designed specifically for the care of critically ill large animals, opens at NBC.

The world’s first animal bloodmobile (below) enters service at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital.



Barbaro and Dr. Dean Richardson (above).

Medical genetics researchers develop first allele specific test for an inherited disease in domestic animals.

PennHIP, a new diagnostic procedure for canine hip dysplasia, is established by Dr. Gail Smith, V’74, at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital.


The Marshak Dairy, the first greenhouse-style dairy complex in Pennsylvania, is dedicated as Dr. Robert Marshak, dean, 1973-87, led a two-year-old Holstein to the celebration (left).

The Mari Lowe Center for Comparative Oncology Research is established. The center acts as a facilitator and works closely with other centers within the school and across Penn to develop broad-based clinical oncology and interdisciplinary cancer

research and training programs.

2000s A new swine facility fostering the latest human methods in swine rearing opens at NBC.

In collaboration with Cornell University researchers, Dr. Aguirre’s team is the first to restore vision in a blind dog using gene therapy.

Penn Vet pioneers the introduction of genetically modified and in vitro grown spermatogonial stem cells into the testis of a sterile mouse. This technology will provide a type of biological immortality to males of many mammalian species.

The Veterinary Center for Infectious Diseases is established. The center is committed to improving the health of animals through research on infectious diseases and is home to expertise in virology, bacteriology, parasitology, immunology and epidemiology.

Penn launches the Institute for Regenerative Medicine housed at the school, a cross-disciplinary endeavor to investigate the therapeutic potential of stem cells in treatment of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases, wound healing and aging. Dr. John Gearhart, who led a research team that first identified and isolated human embryonic stem cells, is named director of the institute.



From Harper’s Weekly, Vol. XXXL, No. 1580, April 2, 1887. The following is some of the text that accompanied the illustration (above) in Harper’s: 

The recent addition of a veterinary department to the University of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, has occasioned no little comment, and awakened considerable interest, not only in college circles, but among the practitioners of veterinary surgery and medicine everywhere. There is not in this country such another department attached to any college or university. This school or department was founded about three years ago by the trustees of the University to which it is attached, and has proved in every way eminently successful. From the start it has been under the able guidance of Dr. Rush Shippen Huidekoper, a graduate of the veterinary school at Alfort, in France.

The veterinary school, as it is termed, is situated at Thirty-sixth and Pine streets, and about a block from the University buildings. It is built of brick and granite, and occupies the entire square. At one end of the long line of low buildings is an octagon amphitheatre wherein the lecture-room and museum are contained. The one-story wings extending from this are used for dissecting-rooms, hospitals, offices, and laboratories. The various departments are furnished with every appliance for the study and care of the various diseases of the animal kingdom. In the hospitals are subdivisions for birds, horses, dogs, cattle, etc. The strange medley now under treatment in the hospital would furnish a “zoo” on a small scale.

The course of instruction extends over a period of three years, and embraces medical chemistry, physiology, therapeutics, general pathology, morbid anatomy, veterinary anatomy, practical farriery, zootechnics, contagious diseases, sanitary police, obstetrics, etc. Each of the students, according to his capability, is given sole charge of some one of the inmates of this hospital, supervised and directed of course by the chief doctor, to whom he must daily make written report of its condition. There are also quite a large number of “outside” patients which must be visited in private stables.

For more photos and history, visit Penn Vet’s special 125th Anniversary Web site at:


Related: Penn Vet’s 125th Anniversary (Front page story).

Almanac - February 10, 2009, Volume 55, No. 21