Veterans and Veterinarians

The childlike wonder, creativity, observations and questioning are all qualities that we scientists try to bring to our research and teaching. The observations of a child may seem insignificant to some but I am amazed when PharmKid comes up with questions or associations that I cannot explain. I don’t blog about this much unless it has something to do with scientific queries, such as our top-traffic answer and follow-up to her question about where helium comes from.

The latest question was fed by us recently adopting a dog and driving past a Veterans Administration Medical Center. I tried to explain to PharmKid that the VA takes care of people who fought in wars for us to keep us safe and free (she also already understands that while we don’t agree with the rationale for the Iraq War, we strongly support anyone who was called to serve there.)
So the followup question was, “Does that mean that veterinarians take care of dogs that fought in wars?”
After I answered no, she asked whether it meant that veterinarians take care of dogs that have injuries like those of veterans who fought in wars. Pretty interesting synthesis but I was already late for work and promised that we’d look it up on the GreatBigBookOfEverything when we got home in the evening.
Had I taken Latin, I would’ve been a good parent and been able to answer on the spot. Both words do indeed derive from Latin.
Veteran is a derivation of the Latin vetus, meaning “old.”
Veterinarian is a derivation of the Latin veterinae, meaning “draught animals.”
According to Wikipedia, TheGreatBigSometimesAccurateBookOfEverything,

The word “veterinarian” was first used in English by Thomas Browne (1605-1682).

So, it appears to be coincidence that both words begin with “vet” but I’ve never given it a single thought. Many thanks to the PharmKid for teaching me something this week.

4 thoughts on “Veterans and Veterinarians

  1. The army does take care of military working animals. The army has an extensive veterinarian corps whose responsibilities are 1) food inspections, 2) lab animal support (research and medical training) and 3) support and training of military working animals, primarily dogs. In fact, the animals receive more attentive and sustained care than humans do (not kidding). It is amazing how well they are cared for, in theater and CONUS. This applies to active duty and retired animals.

  2. Joseph Camuti, the famous “Cat Doctor,” served as an Army veterinarian during WWI, when the military still depended heavily on horses for transport. I could say that made him a veteran veterinarian, but I won’t. 🙂

  3. Just the kind of post with which to return from vacation. Thanks, Abel.
    Just to add to the cite above from Wikipedia, here’s the sentence in which Thomas Browne produced the first known recorded use of the word vetinarian in English (in 1646):
    “The second Assertion, that an Horse hath no gall is very generall, not only swallowed by the people, and common farriers, but also received by good Vetinarians.”
    This is from that very often accurate book of (mostly) everything to do with the history of English, the Oxford English Dictionary. I particularly like the emphasis on the class difference between common farriers and educated vets. Things change, but often not that much.

  4. I am an italian veterinarian (maybe I keep a bit of latin blood in my mother tongue). “veterinae” means draught animals, but I’m not sure that this word and “vetus” do not share the same origin. In fact, according to some dictionaries, “veterinae” could come from “vehere” that means “to carry”. In this case it indicates (draught) animals that carry something. But according to other sources, it probably comes from “vetus”, since old horses were not used for competitions or war, but for farm works. And, since they were old, they have more probability to get sick…

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