The start of the Swiss veterinary connection dates back to the late 19th century when a shortage of veterinarians in Transvaal motivated M. Constançon, the Swiss ambassador to the ZAR in 1890, to inform his home country. The message reached Erwin Zschokke (1855-1929) of the Zurich Veterinary School and Wilhelm Kolle (1868-1935) of the Medical Faculty, University of Bern. Since veterinary practice in Switzerland was not profitable, graduates were interested in alternatives abroad. The Zurich graduates Arnold Theiler (1867-1936), Peter Lys (Lis) (1865-1913), and Emil Tüller (1870-1905) discussed emigration. Tüller wanted to stay, Theiler and Lys (Lis) decided to emigrate. Lys finally decided to stay in Switzerland. Theiler went by himself. His veterinary equipment was lost on the trip but he nevertheless started a veterinary practice in Pretoria. However, the Swiss curriculum did not include “tropical diseases” and it is no wonder that his practice was unsuccessful. To gain experience he decided to work as a farm hand for A. H. Nellmapius (1847-1893). Theiler learned how to deal with tropical diseases and, following the advice of Zschokkes, he performed as many post-mortems as possible. During an accident at the farm he lost his left hand in a chaff cutter and had to use an artificial hand, a fact that he tried to hide for the rest of his life. In 1892 Theiler reopened a successful veterinary practice in Pretoria. (Read full abstract in the WAHVM 2020 proceedings https://repository.up.ac.za/handle/2263/74425)
Presentation delivered at the 44th International Congress of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine held from the 27-29 of February 2020 at The Farm Inn Hotel and Conference Centre, Pretoria, South Africa
Bibliographical references available on request from the author.