Veterinary science is the study, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease in animals both as individuals
and as groups.
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There is also a key role for members of the profession as guardians of human health in the
context of disease transmission from animal or animal products to man.
Historical and current perspective
Once early man had moved from hunting to herding he had an interest in the health and husbandry of his
stock. By the time of the ancient civilisations there is evidence of close interaction between man and animals
in contexts which are still familiar today including the use of animals for production, draught and war and,
increasingly, as human companions.
The first book of the modern era devoted to veterinary medicine, 'Artis Veterinariae', was produced by Publius Vegetius Renatus in the second half of the 5th century.
The 'veterinarii' were the animal doctors of ancient Rome, and the word came back into use in the 17th and
18th centuries as the veterinary profession emerged from its origins amongst the farriers. By the 18th century
several veterinary texts had been published and the first veterinary school in Europe was established at Lyon
The first to be established in the United Kingdom was the Royal Veterinary College in 1792.
Although the term 'veterinary surgeon' is widely used within the UK, the term 'veterinarian' (first used in
the English language in 1646) is employed here.
The veterinary workplace has changed in the last century with less emphasis on the horse (especially as a
draught animal), an increasing emphasis on companion animals kept for pleasure, and greater veterinary
involvement in production animals, public health and food hygiene.