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Understanding Therio
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History of Theriogenology?

History of the Term Theriogenology


Back in the late 1960’s, there was an organizing committee with intentions:                       

1 – to gain AVMA’s approval for a contemplated new specialty college with an exclusive veterinary identity and which would embrace relevant animal species of both sexes;    

2 – to search for a new word to be used when replacing the names of "The American Veterinary Society for the Study of Breeding Soundness” (founded in 1966) and its predecessor "The Rocky Mountain Society for the Study of Breeding Soundness in Bulls” (founded in 1954)

Representing this committee, I visited with Professor Herbert M. Howe for consultation and advice.  I found him to be both an interesting and approachable gentleman.  Early, he confirmed  that the terms used in human medicine, i.e., gynecology and andrology, were not applicable in veterinary medicine, the former being derived from the Greek root gynos meaning woman (not female) and the latter from andros meaning man (not male). After consideration and consultation with his associates, Professor Howe proposed the word theriogenology, i.e., from the ancient Greek words Therio meaning beast or animal, gen as in genesis meaning creation, generation, and ology meaning study of. Theriogenology is etymologically correct.  It gathers mammals, both male and female, and reproduction, both physiology and pathology.

At that time, Dorland’s American Illustrated Medical Dictionary listed and defined the word theriatrics as veterinary medicine, theriotherapy as treatment of the diseases of lower animals, and theriatomy as the dissection or anatomy of animals, all derived from a Greek root, therio.  Webster’s International Dictionary defined theriatrics as the science of veterinary medicine, therianthropic as pertaining to the centaur, which both distinguished and defined beast and/from man, and theriomorphic as meaning having an animal form.  Zoological taxonomists used the term Eutheria to delineate the subclass of placental animals.

It is of interest to note that the German word for veterinarian is tierartz.

Since the early 1970’s the word theriogenology has been listed and defined in many unabridged dictionaries.

Through the intervening years, I crossed paths occasionally with Professor Howe.  He was always anxious to hear a brief update on the growth of the College and the Society and, obviously, pleased to hear about use of his and our word.

David E. Bartlett DVM, Ph D, Dipl ACT

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