Dr. Douglas Blood dies at 93

Australian veterinarian revolutionized large animal medicine

June 20, 2013 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Dr. Douglas C. Blood
A beloved academician and mentor known as the father of herd health and co-author of one of veterinary medicine’s most important textbooks on large animals has passed away.   

Dr. Douglas Charles Blood, BVSc, MVSc, died June 6 in Melbourne, Australia. He was 93. Blood is survived by his partner, Shirley, and daughters Christine, Sue, Kate, Linda and Judy. He had six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Marian, is predeceased.  

A native of England, Blood immigrated to Australia with his family as a youth. He earned a degree in veterinary medicine in 1942 from the University of Sydney, and went straight into World War II as a captain in the Australian Army.   

When the war ended, Blood returned to the University of Sydney as a faculty member teaching large animal medicine and remained on staff until 1957. Seeking greater experience and education in clinical practice, he left for the United States, settling at Cornell University in New York.   

It was there that Blood honed an ability to run an ambulatory practice serving the diary industry. He took those skills to Canada as a professor at the Ontario Veterinary College and, according to academic historians, revolutionized veterinary education.   

“Here was an excellent classroom teacher, scientific clinician and a master of the veterinary literature in large animal medicine,” reads a tribute to Blood’s work, authored by his now-deceased colleague Dr. Otto Radostits. “He taught and students learned how to examine an animal in a systematic manner and to make a logical clinical diagnosis using one’s five senses … and a thermometer and stethoscope. He also taught that the sixth sense should not be intuition, but rather experience and learning from one’s mistakes.”  

Blood spread his decision-making concepts worldwide in 1960 when he co-authored “Veterinary Medicine — A Textbook of Diseases in Cattle, Sheep, Pigs and Horses." Revised every five years, the book remains a primary reference for veterinary students and practitioners. It’s translated into several languages and in its 10th edition.   

Two years after publishing the work, Blood returned to Australia to re-established the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, which had closed during the 1920s but re-opened in 1963. Blood stepped down as dean after six years and stayed on as a professor until he retired in 1985.

During Blood’s tenure he received several accolades, including the Gilruth Prize for Meritorious Service to Veterinary Science, the Australian Veterinary Association’s most prestigious award. He received University of Guelph’s Schofield Medal and in 1981, was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.   

Blood is a founding fellow of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.   

“He will go down in history as one of the greats,” said Dr. Clive Gay, a retired academician in Washington state who considered Blood to be a friend and mentor. “He was instrumental in developing an approach to herd health involving farm management.”  

Gay met Blood in the late 1950s while a student at the Ontario Veterinary College and subsequently taught clinical veterinary medicine with Blood for 15 years at the University of Melbourne.

“He was exceptional in many ways,” Gay said. “I emailed my classmates when he died. He was very much loved, especially by the Canadian students.”    

Dr. Mark Rishniw, a former student of Blood's at Melbourne, remembers the professor as a good-natured story teller, imparting colorful anecdotes of his life as a clinician.  

"Professor Blood was an avid swimmer. Many students of his will remember his gray-green hair, which was the result of hours in a chlorinated pool," Rishniw recalled. "And others will remember the ever-present bow-tie and suit in which he delivered lectures."

During Blood’s later years, he developed a love for photographing birds in spite of dealing with macular degeneration.   

“For a person who wrote and read as much as he did, it was devastating,” Gay said. “But he kept his hobby going. He was always learning.”

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