S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Smith, Major-Gene Frederick (veterinary science)

Born: 13 April 1857, Hull, England.
Died: 27 July 1929, St Leonard, Sussex, England.

Frederick Smith, veterinary surgeon in the British Army, qualified (MRCVS) at the Royal Veterinary College, London, in April 1876, winning prizes in physiology and cattle pathology and the Coleman medal for an essay on specific ophthalmia. He joined the British Army that same year, serving in India from 1877 to 1885. During 1879 he returned to England for medical treatment and married Mary Ann Briggs, with whom he had a son and a daughter. Back in India he was promoted to veterinary captain in 1880. He investigated the problem of sore backs among horses and found the cause to be ill-fitting saddles. In 1882 he and J.H. Steel started the Quarterly Journal of Veterinary Science in India, which was published for seven years.

From 1886 Smith held an appointment as professor in the Army Veterinary School at Aldershot, Hampshire, for five years. During this period he published 49 papers, many of them on the physiology of the horse. In addition his Manual of veterinary hygiene (1887) and Manual of veterinary physiology (1892) became recognised textbooks for all English speaking students. In 1893 he qualified as a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (FRCVS). Following his promotion to major in 1896 and his participation in the Nile campaign in 1898 he came to South Africa in November 1899, shortly after the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), as a veterinary officer. After the war he served as principal veterinary officer in the military barracks in Pretoria from 1903 to October 1905. He then returned to England as principal veterinary officer of the eastern command and was promoted to colonel in 1905.

In 1907 Smith was promoted to major-general and appointed director-general of the Army Veterinary Service. After retiring in 1910 he wrote 150 papers and books, including The veterinary history of the war in South Africa, 1899-1902 (London, 1919). Its contents were initially published as a supplement to the Veterinary Record during 1912-1914. His other major publications during this period were The early history of veterinary literature and its British development (3 vols, 1919-1930) and A history of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, 1796-1919 (1927). He was awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1918 and bequeathed a large sum of money for veterinary research to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

List of sources:
National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Oxford Dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Posthumus, P.J. Past veterinarians in South Africa (10th edition), Vol. 2, [1992].

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: D.W. Verwoerd