Fielding D. O’Niell, DVM, MS
The earliest mention of veterinary medicine appeared in the Egyptian "Papyrus of Kahun" around 1800 B.C., then shortly afterwards in the famous "Code of Hammurabi."
Ancient vets were called "Hippiatroi" (horse doctors), Mulomedicus (mule doctors) and "Medicus Pecuarius (livestock doctors). In fact, the term "veterinarian" is derived from the Latin word for "Beasts of Burden." These animals provided the very basis of early economies, both civilian and military.
Two individuals had a profound effect in changing the practice of medicine from one of "Priest-Healer" to one based upon critical thought, careful observations and recorded experiences. The first was Hippocrates who held that cure comes from within the body's defensive and reactive powers. This is found in his book "The Nature of Animals." He proposed the use of "similars", drugs that produce symptoms similar to those of the disease being treated, i.e. "Homeopathic Medicine." He coined the phrase "First, do no harm." A century later, Aesculapius, the son of Apollo, was deified as the "god of healing" for bringing health to man and animals. Aesculapius proposed direct intervention by the physician and emphasized an understanding of anatomy and pathology. He advised the use of "contraries", drugs that produce results dissimilar to the symptoms of the disease and laid the basis for modern Allopathic Medicine. His symbol was a staff with serpents coiled around it. This emblem, the Caduceus, is still used to represent the medical professions today.