Dr. Fred Scott Remembers Dr. Kirk & Dr. Gillespie

Editor’s Note: Dr. Fred Scott is a legendary veterinary virologist in his own right, having published hundreds of studies and led the Cornell Feline Health Center at its inception. I met him briefly as the late Dr. Jim Richards was taking over as director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, and then again as he graciously assumed the helm of the Center at Jim’s untimely death in 2007. Dr. Scott’s interest in preserving history in both his personal and professional life has given me pause to do the same " to honor those who came before us.. Here he shares some additional comments regarding the loss of two of his own mentors. " Lea-Ann Germinder

Veterinary medicine lost two giants this January with the passing of Dr. Robert W. Kirk (on Jan. 19, 2011, at age 88) and Dr. James H. Gillespie (on Jan. 10, 2011, at age 93). Both were mentors to me.

Dr. Kirk, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, was internationally recognized and perhaps best known for his text, Current Veterinary Therapy, presently in its 13th edition. The accomplishments and awards presented to Dr. Kirk would fill several pages. As an indication of the esteem in which Dr. Kirk was held by the veterinary profession, when the World Small Animal Veterinary Association decided to present their first award to an outstanding small animal veterinarian at their 1984 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, they presented the award to Dr. Kirk. What a thrill it was for me to attend that meeting, and to see Dr. Kirk honored.

Dr. Danny Scott who interned under Dr. Kirk and worked with him for many years at Cornell, summed it up this way: “[Dr. Kirk] literally knew more, I believe, than any small-animal veterinarian in the world.”

Dr. James H. Gillespie, Emeritus Professor of Virology, received his VMD from the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1940s, then served in the military during WWII in the Asian Theater, caring for horses and mules during the “Hump” movement, providing supplies to China from India. After the war, he joined the Faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, first in the Avian Medicine group, then with Dr. James Baker at the Veterinary Virus Research Institute (now Baker Institute) where he conducted ground-breaking research on canine vaccines. In 1964 he started the feline infectious disease studies at the College, which resulted in the formation of the Cornell Feline Health Center in 1974. He served as Chairman of the Department of Microbiology for several years until his retirement.

I returned to Cornell in 1965 specifically to train in virology under Dr. Gillespie in the Department of Microbiology. In 1968 he hired me for a new faculty position in the Department. Without the vision and encouragement of Dr. Gillespie, I would not have entered the feline world, nor enjoyed the tremendous privilege of serving on the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell. Without Dr. Gillespie, I am convinced the Cornell Feline Health Center would not exist today.

It gives me pause as these are two great losses. Yes, they were ready to go, but how their contributions have enriched veterinary medicine, and certainly my own work.

Dean Donald Smith has posted a comprehensive history of Dr. Kirk here. Another comprehensive summary of Dr. Kirk’s life and contributions to Veterinary Medicine can be accessed at https://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/cvmagazine/Spring04/principles.pdf


Fred Scott, DVM ’62, PhD ’68
Professor Emeritus, Cornell University