Letters in the Limelight: the battle for clean milk

Coll.14.23.6 Clean milk p1Cataloguing the correspondence of zoologist/animal breeder James Cossar Ewart (1851-1933), I have been intrigued by the various ‘life stories’ which emerge from the letters. Periodically I will be including some highlights in a series of posts entitled ‘letters in the limelight.’

Naturally much of Ewart’s correspondence in the collection is concerned with both the commercial and the purely scientific aspects of animal breeding. However, Ewart was also involved periodically with issues surrounding human health and its relation to agricultural industries. This week’s letter is from a man called William Burgess (although his signature is unclear), who writes from Highwood Hill, Mill Hill, London on 11 July 1917. Burgess writes that he has read Ewart’s article ‘The Saving of Child Life’, which appeared in The Nineteenth Century and After (Vol. 82, Part 1, 1917), and which dealt with the issue of infant mortality arising from the consumption of raw (that is, unpasteurised) milk.

From the 1880s onwards it became known that diseases such as bovine tuberculosis could be spread to humans from cattle through milk, and that children were particularly susceptible to infection. Even though pasteurisation had been discovered in the 1860s, the idea was slow in being put into practice, and the battle for clean milk was a lengthy one. It was 1934 before milk pasteurisation and compulsory tuberculin skin testing of cattle was adopted in the UK (in the 1930s, it was thought that around 40% of dairy cows were infected with TB). However, pasteurisation of milk is still not compulsory in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, although it was made compulsory in Scotland in 1983. Ewart was clearly carrying out practical research into methods for milk cleanliness in preparation for his article; another letter in the collection from February of that year is from John Robertson, Medical Officer of Health in the Birmingham Public Health and Housing Department. Robertson recommends that Ewart visit a certain farm near Basingstoke to see a particular method of cleansing in action.

Burgess writes that the advice Ewart’s article contains would be invaluable if it was ‘boiled down’ into a tract and made comprehensible to ‘ordinary people’, both the farmers who produce milk and the parents who purchase it. He writes that he himself has a small dairy and sells milk to his neighbours, so he will ask the district nurse to keep a watch on new babies. If such a popular tract were written however, Burgess advises Ewart against using such overly ‘scientific’ words as ‘pre-natal’, ‘biometricians’ and ‘heredity’!

This letter demonstrates something of the breadth of applications to which Ewart put his animal breeding work. From investigations into hereditary characteristics to the prehistoric origins of domestic animals to improvements in the wool industry, Ewart was always interested in the wider applications of the natural sciences. The relationship between ‘pure’ biological science, its commercial applications and its implications for human health is something which endures to the present day.

Man’s Best Friend – a Study on Dogs, Breeding and Disease from 1852

Roslin_S_13This week from the Roslin rare book collection I’ll be featuring William Youatt’s The Dog from 1852. An early study of the various dog breeds, diseases, welfare and even some poetry by Henry Hallam on Walter Scott and his dogs!

Roslin_S_13_7The evolution of the genetics of dogs is fascinating and one of the interesting features of this book are the illustrations of the various breeds of dogs as they looked in the mid-19th century. Comparing these early illustrations to present day photographs of similar breeds shows how they’ve developed over time and what’s changed and what has stayed the same.

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Youatt also, discusses the characteristics of the dog breeds, diseases found in canines, social, cultural and animal welfare issues such as domestication, dog fighting pits and trafficking.

This text is discusses breeding and characteristics in a more general way rather than in purely scientific terminology and analysis of the genetics of the canine. However, many articles have been written over the years on the development and changes in the dog and a couple of recent articles are:  The canine genome by Elaine A Ostrander and Robert K Wayne in Genome Research. 2005. 15: 1706-1716 http://genome.cshlp.org/content/15/12/1706.full and from the Roslin Institute in April 2013: Population structure and genetic heterogeneity in popular dog breeds in the UK by Richard J Mellanby, Rob Ogden, Dylan N Clements, Anne T French, Adam G Gow, Roger Powell, Brendan Corcoran, Johan P Schoeman, Kim M Summers in  Veterinary Journal Vol: 196 Pages: 92-97 http://www.roslin.ed.ac.uk/kim-summers/recent-publications/.

James Cossar Ewart medal collection

St Hilaire medal rectoWe’re taking a break from ‘Letters in the Limelight’ this week to take a look at another type of item in the James Cossar Ewart collection. There are 19 medals in the collection, which were awarded to Ewart over the period 1866 (a school medal from Penicuik Free Church School) to 1931 (British Association Centenary commemorative medal). Most of them are for Ewart’s achievements in science and animal breeding: there is a bronze Life Fellow’s Token from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, a gold medal from the Worshipful Company of Woolmen awarded for Ewart’s research into wool and numerous medals from the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland for various animal breeding competitions.

Sometimes the medals complement other items in the collection, as with the medal featured in the picture. This handsome silver medal from the Société Nationale D’Acclimatation de France (National Acclimatisation Society of France) shows the embossed head of the French zoologist Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1805-1861), who founded the Society in 1855. The medallist and engraver was Albert Désiré Barre. A programme which also survives in the collection tells us that Ewart was awarded the medal at the 26th Public Meeting of the Société Nationale D’Acclimatation on the 25 June 1899. The award was given for Ewart’s cross-breeding work with the Burchell’s zebra, which you can read more about here.

Cataloguing medals is not something an archivist gets to do very often, so it was an enjoyable new experience to explore how to catalogue the physical characteristics of objects rather than thinking about the intellectual content and context of documents. The medals are an interesting part of the Ewart collection, as they give a tangible idea of Ewart’s work, achievements and the number of societies and organisations with which he was involved.

William Bateson’s Books in the Roslin Collection at the University of Edinburgh

In 1908, biologist William Bateson (1861-1926) became Britain’s first professor of genetics at the University of Cambridge. He was known for his interest in studying inheritance traits and Mendel’s research and was the first to translate his works into English. With Reginald Crundall Punnett, Bateson published a series of breeding experiments that extended Mendel’s theory to animals and showed, contrary to Mendel, certain features were consistently inherited together which was termed linkage.

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We are lucky enough to have seven books in the Roslin Rare Book Collection that belonged to William Bateson. They are :  Instruction sur la maniere d’elever et de perfectionner la bonne espece des betes a laine de Flandre, 1763; Browne, D J, The American Poultry Yard, 1863; Dixon, Reverend Edmund Saul, Ornamental and Domestic Poultry, 1848 (showing the title page and flyleaf with Bateson’s signature); Dickson, Walter B., Poultry: their breeding, rearing, diseases, and general management, 1847; Croad, AC, The Langshan Fowl, it’s history and characteristics, 1889; Poli, A and G Magri, Il bestiame bovino in Italia, 1884; and ; Nathusius, Hermann, Vortrage über Viehsucht,1872.

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As it is apparent from this small selection of books, Bateson’s interests were fairly diverse. He went on to accept the Directorship of the John Innes Horticultural Institute at Merton, England in 1910 and many of the books in the Roslin Collection contain the library stamp from this organisation, but whether it was Bateson acquiring these books or another scientist, it is unclear.  That Bateson’s books are found in the Roslin Collection highlights thelinks between the research scientists were conducting in both Cambridge and Edinburgh in the early/mid 20th century.

Letters in the Limelight: Samuel Henry Butcher (1850-1910)

DSCN2319Cataloguing the correspondence of zoologist/animal breeder James Cossar Ewart (1851-1933), I have been intrigued by the various ‘life stories’ which emerge from the letters. Periodically I will be including some highlights in a series of posts entitled ‘letters in the limelight’ .

While our last ‘Letters in the Limelight’ looked at the life of Peter Henry Buck, a man whose energy was inexhaustible, this week deals poignantly with another of James Cossar Ewart’s correspondents, Samuel Henry Butcher, an Anglo-Irish classical scholar and politician, whose strength had simply run out. Born in Dublin in 1850, Butcher was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was made a Fellow in 1874. From 1876 to 1882 he was a Fellow of University College Oxford, before taking up the post of professor of Greek at the University of Edinburgh, succeeding John Stuart Blackie. His many publications included, in collaboration with Andrew Lang, a prose translation of Homer’s Odyssey (1879), The Poetics of Aristotle (1902) and Some Aspects of the Greek Genius (1904). Butcher was also influential in areas other than the Classics: education was an important subject to him and one for which he was an advocate, on the Scottish Universities Commission (1889-1896); the University of Edinburgh Court (1891-1901); and the Royal Commission on University Education in Ireland (1901). A. Logan Turner described Butcher as possessing: ‘a singularly attractive grace in bearing and speech, he appealed by sheer contrast to the rather unkempt Scottish undergraduate  as an embodiment of Hellenism, at any rate on its aristocratic side’ (History of the University of Edinburgh, 1883-1933, pp. 229-230). However, despite his achievements, by 1903 Butcher’s health and strength were failing. In April of that year he wrote sadly to Ewart:

Riccall Hall
Yorkshire
April 1903

My dear Ewart,
I have intended for some time past to tell you that I have come to the decision that I must resign my Chair. I did not wish this to become public property during this Session, for the leave taking and speech making – to me a great emotional strain – would probably have consumed my remaining strength. But now there is no longer any reason for silence, though my formal resignation to the Court will be deferred for a little while.
I have found, beyond all shade of doubt, that the strain of work had become too great for my strength and my nerve force, which has been greatly reduced during the last year. I have pulled through this Session, but only barely, and often at the week-end, I doubted if I could start afresh on Monday for another week.
I return to Edinburgh tomorrow and must apply myself to business of many kinds, and especially the dismantling of my house, and disposal of many of my goods, eg. books, for which I shall not have room in a smaller house in London. To uproot one’s home of 21 years is a work of much sadness and I cannot trust myself to allow my thoughts to go freely over all that it means. Still I have not lightly made this resolve and know that it is inevitable.
I will write presently and suggest a time which may suit you to look in on me, if you are still at home.
Yours ever,
S.H Butcher
I have a good deal of riding and open air exercise here at my brother’s and am the better for it.
(GB 237 Coll-14/9/9/44)

However, Butcher by no means became inactive after his retirement from the Chair. The remaining five letters from Butcher to Ewart in the collection all postdate Butcher’s retirement and show him to have kept a reasonably active life. One letter from June 1904 has him reporting on a recent lecture tour of America, though he states he found this ‘difficult’ (GB 237 Coll-14/9/10/69), another in September 1905 has him debating with Irish politicians on Irish language and politics (GB 237 Coll-14/9/11/32). Socially, Butcher and Ewart must have been rather close, as he was asked to be trustee of Ewart’s marriage settlement to his third wife, Edith F. Muir. Upon hearing of Ewart’s engagement in September 1904 he remarked: ‘I rejoice to think that the lonely life you have spent for so many years is now to be brightened with human companionship’ (GB 237 Coll-14/9/10/104). After his retirement, Butcher also served as President of the British Academy 1909-1910, was Trustee of the British Museum (1908), and was one of the two MPs for Cambridge University from 1906 until his death, representing the Unionist Party. Samuel Henry Butcher died in London on 29 December 1910 and is interred at the Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.

Butcher’s lecture notes and papers are held in Edinburgh University Library Special Collections, while his letters to other individuals are held at Oxford, Cambridge, London, St Andrews and the National Library of Scotland.

Beautiful Books Breeding in the Roslin Rare Books Collection

The Roslin Collection comprises a surprisingly wide-range of material from archival papers, the bound collection of scientific offprints and glass slides. It also includes 71 books on agriculture, animal breeding and genetics. The span of topics and time is remarkable – the earliest book in the collection is a book on Italian horse breeding from 1573 Roslin Il Caualerizzoup to a book on Scottish photography from 1999!  These books were used by scientists at the Institute of Animal Genetics Library, Edinburgh; Animal Breeding Research Organization and Animal Breeding Research Department, University of Edinburgh; University of Edinburgh Agricultural Department, Poultry Research Centre, the Commonwealth Breeding Organization, Imperial Bureau of Animal Breeding and Genetics and Roslin including Professor Robert Wallace and FAE Crew. Some books contain beautiful fold-out illustrations and may have some annotations.

To give you an idea of the scope of the collection:

Corte, Claudio, Il Cauallerizzo de Claudio Corte da Pauia, 1573; Instruction sur la maniere d’elever et de perfectionner la bonne espece des betes a laine de Flandre, 1763; Buc’hoz, Traité Economique et physique des oiseaux de basse-cour, 1775; Hunter, A., Georgical Essays, 1777; Bakewell and Culley, Letters from Robert Bakewell to George Culley, 1777; Great Britain Board of Agriculture, Communications to the Board of Agriculture, vol. 1-7,1797-1813; Salle-Pigny, F.A., Essai sur l’education et l’amelioration des betes a laine…, 1811; Desaive, Maximillian, Les Animaux Domestiques, 1842; Low, David, The Breeds of the Domestic Animals of the British Islands Vol. 1 & 2, 1842; Dickson, Walter B., Poultry: their breeding, rearing, diseases, and general management, 1847; Dixon, Reverend Edmund Saul, Ornamental and Domestic Poultry, 1848; Dickson, James, The Breeding and Economy of Livestock…, 1851; Youatt, William, The Dog, 1852; Doyle, Martin (ed), The Illustrated Book of Domestic Poultry, 1854; Wegener, J.F. Wilhelm, Das Hühner- Buch, 1861; Brown, D J, The American Poultry Yard, 1863; Charnace, Le Cte Guy de, Etudes sur les animaux domestiques, 1864; Youatt, William, Sheep, 1869; Bates, Thomas, The History of Improved Short-Horn or Durham cattle …, 1871; Nathusius, Hermann, Vortrage über Viehsucht,1872; Coleman, J, The Cattle of Great Britain: being a series of articles on the various breeds…vol.1 & 2, 1875; La Pere de Roo, Monagraphie des Poules, 1882; Tegetemeir, WB, Pigeons: their structure, varieties, habits, and management, 1883; Poli, A and G Magri, Il bestiame bovino in Italia, 1884; McMurtrie, William, Report upon an examination of Wools and other Animal Fibres, 1886; Croad, AC, The Langshan Fowl, it’s history and characteristics, 1889; Wright, L, The Practical Poultry Keeper, 1890; Tegetmeier, WB, Poultry for the Table and Market…, 1893; Gordon, DJ, The Murray Merino, 1895-96; Theobald, Fred V., The Parasitic Diseases of Poultry, 1896; Felch, IK, Poultry Culture. How to Raise, Manage, Mage and Judge, 1898; Hearnshaw, Roger R, The Rosecomb Bantam, 1901; Weir, Harrison, Our Poultry and All About Them, Vol. 1 & 2, 1902; Parlin, S W, The American Trotter, 1905; Axe, Professor J Wortley, The Horse: its treatment in health and disease, Vol. 1-9, 1905; Davenport, CB, Inheritance in Poultry, 1906; Gunn, WD, Cattle of Southern India, 1909; Committee of Inquiry on Grouse Disease, The grouse in health and in disease Vol. 1 & 2, 1911; Hewlett, K, Breeds of Indian Cattle, Bombay Presidency, 1912; Lewis, Harry R, Productive Poultry Husbandry, 1913; Bateson, W, Mendel’s Principles of Heredity, 1930; Punnett, RC, Notes on Old Poultry Books, 1930; Houlton, Charles, Cage-bird hybrids : containing full directions for the selection, breeding, exhibition and general management of canary mules and British bird hybrids, 1930; Prentice, E Parmale, The History of Channel Island Cattle: Gurnseys and Jerseys, 1930; Hays, FA and Klein, GT, Poultry Breeding Applied, 1943; Odlum, George M, An Analysis of the Manningford Herd of British Friesians, 1945; Heiman, Victor (editor), Kasco Poultry Guide, 1950; Schlyger, Hühnerrassesn, c1951; Hartley and Hook, Optical Chick Sexing, 1954; Tyler, Cyril, Wilhelm von Nathusius 1821-1899 on Avian Eggshells, 1964; Marsden, Aloysius, The effects of environmental temperature on energy intake and egg production in the fowl, 1981; Ford, Donald, Millennium Images of Scotland, 1999; Bayon, HP, Diseases of Poultry: their prevention and treatment, n.d.

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This collection of books provide a valuable resource for the collection as it offers an insight into what the scientists were reading and researching over the years. Over then next few weeks I’ll be highlighting some of the gems of the collection!

Letters in the Limelight: Peter Henry Buck (c.1877-1951)

Coll.14.9.30.14 Peter Henry BuckCataloguing the correspondence of zoologist/animal breeder James Cossar Ewart (1851-1933), I have been intrigued by the various ‘life stories’ which emerge from the letters. Periodically I will be including some highlights in a series of posts entitled ‘letters in the limelight’ .

This week’s letter, from Peter Henry Buck, also known by the Maori name Te Rangi Hiroa, isn’t addressed directly to James Cossar Ewart, but to his wife Edith. Buck’s ancestry alone makes for an interesting story: born around 1877 in New Zealand (he used to claim 1880), he believed for most of his life that his natural mother was Ngarongo ki-tua, wife of his Irish father William Buck. In actual fact, although Ngarongo raised Peter, his birth mother was a near relative who, in accordance with Maori custom, provided William with a child when his marriage to Ngarongo proved childless. Ngarongo instilled in Buck a knowledge and love of the Maori language and lore, although his upbringing was more influenced by the Pakeha (a Maori term for New Zealanders of European decent) side of his family.

Buck attended Otago medical school, and in 1910 gained his MD with the thesis ‘Medicine amongst the Maoris in Ancient and Modern Times’. This subject served him well for his role as medical officer to the Maori, and together with his colleague Maui Pomare they did much to improve the sanitation of Maori settlements and speed a recovery in population. However, Buck was not destined to confine himself purely to medicine for the rest of his life: his love for Maori culture led him into a brief spell in politics as a member of the Native Affairs Committee and briefly, the Executive Council. When war broke out in 1914 he helped to assemble a Maori volunteer contingent: Buck himself saw action at Gallipoli (where he was twice mentioned in dispatches and made DSO), France and Belgium, and ultimately reached the rank of major and second-in-command of the battalion. On returning to New Zealand, Buck become director of the Maori Hygiene Division in the new Department of Health, but at the same time his passion for anthropology continued to flourish. He went on several field trips recording Maori culture and music, visited the Cook Islands and ultimately established himself as the leading authority on Maori material culture. He was a popular lecturer, delivering  ‘The Coming of the Maori’ at the Pan-Pacific Science Congress in Melbourne in August 1923, which is where he met James Cossar Ewart and his wife. Ewart had been invited to the Congress with his colleague Aldred F. Barker (professor of textile industries at the University of Leeds), by the Australian government, as both men were then engaged in improving the sheep and wool industry through applied science. Ewart delivered a lecture at the Congress titled ‘The Ancestry of Domestic Breeds of Sheep’.  In Buck’s letter, dated 23 December 1923, Buck sends his greetings to the Ewarts, remarking that ‘it seems but yesterday when that historic event [i.e the Congress] took place. Do you remember the rush the Professor had to the Museum and the Zoological Gardens on the morning that you sailed from Auckland?’ He goes on to report that the Government has granted him leave to accompany an American scientific expedition into Polynesia, and that the Board of Maori Ethnological Research have established a Maori Improvement Fund of £90,000 which will go to promote practical and higher education among the Maori people.

As well as getting to know the Ewarts at the Congress, a chance meeting with Herbert E. Gregory, director of the Bernice P. Museum in Hawaii, led to Buck being offered a five year research fellowship at the Museum. Henceforth, Buck abandoned medical work to become a professional anthropologist, conducting extensive research in the Polynesian island groups. He was visiting professor of anthropology at Yale University in 1932-1933 and in 1936 he succeeded Gregory as director of the Bishop Museum, finally accepting that his expatriation from his beloved New Zealand would be permanent. Buck remained a hugely popular figure, receiving a string of honours and a New Zealand knighthood in 1949. He died in Honolulu on 01 December 1951 and his ashes were finally brought home to Okoki near Urenui, New Zealand in 1953. Buck’s enormously active life, and the contributions he made to Maori health, wellbeing and an understanding of their culture, belies the self-deprecating remark which he makes to Edith Ewart in his letter concerning ‘the Polynesian inertia that I inherit’.

With acknowledgements to http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b54/buck-peter-henry