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Calvin W. Schwabe

Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Epidemiology


1927 – 2006


Calvin W. Schwabe, widely known as the father of veterinary epidemiology, died in his home on June 24, 2006. Truly a Renaissance Man, in a 52-year career he made important scholarly contributions in a broad array of subjects including epidemiology, diseases of animals transmissible to people, interactions of veterinary and human medicine, parasitic zoonoses and their control, tropical health, public health practice, livestock health in pastoral societies, ancient origins of human and veterinary medicine and the philosophy of science. A member of the faculty of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Cal also was one of eight founding faculty of the School of Medicine.


Cal was born in New Jersey in 1927 and graduated from high school in Cornwall, New York. He was awarded the baccalaureate degree in biology [honors] by Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1948, the MS in zoology by the University of Hawaii in 1950, the DVM [highest honors] by Auburn University in 1954, the MPH in tropical public health in 1955 and the ScD in parasitology and public health in 1956, by Harvard University.


Cal began his career in the School of Medicine at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon in 1956. A year later he founded and chaired a joint Department of Tropical Health in the Schools of Medicine and Public Health at that university and a Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health in 1962. It was in Beirut where he developed an interest in, and a significant program of research on, hydatid disease and other parasitic zoonoses which he continued for his entire professional career. In 1960 as a consultant to the World Health Organization [WHO], he directed its global hydatid disease research and control program. From 1964 to 1966, on leave from the American University, he directed the WHO’s parasitic diseases programs.


In 1966, Cal accepted an invitation to join the faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine as Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and to establish a Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine. He chaired the department, the first of its kind in any veterinary medical school anywhere, which soon became the wellhead of veterinary epidemiology training for the entire world. He also established the Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine degree program, a professional education program emphasizing the principles and strategies of mass disease control and prevention in animals. That program since has trained the leaders in public animal disease control from all over the world. Cal, with Prof Hans Riemann, also was the instigator of the UCD Graduate Group in Epidemiology.


It is scarcely necessary to address the number of Cal’s publications, although his creative output was prodigious. From the basic to the applied sciences, the sphere of influence of his contributions to public health through his writings and professional service was incalculable in promoting the health of human populations. Of equal gravity were the subjects of his expository writings, so varied and eclectic that they defy encapsulation. From posits on the ineluctable medical symbiosis between humans and animals (Veterinary Medicine and Human Health, 1984) and indelicate musings on improbable food sources (Unmentionable Cuisine, 1988), to his epistemological journeys (The Quick and the Dead: Biomedical Theory in Ancient Egypt, with Andrew Gordon, 2004) and (Science, Spirit and Wholeness: A Quaker Scientist’s Sense of God, 2004), Calvin saw the world as ultimately more than the storied “one medicine”--he saw it as an ecosystem of planetary proportions constituted of interdependent civilizations and cultures, in which human history and human progress were inexorably linked with the co-evolution of the animal kingdom.


He was no less influential as the progenitor of the modern era of veterinary epidemiology. His illustrious graduate students, who have gone on to populate the world with a new generation of veterinary epidemiologists, have included such leaders in the discipline as Michael Burridge (University of Florida), Peter Cowan (North Carolina State University), S. Wayne Martin (University of Guelph), Marguerite Pappioanou (University of Minnesota) and Peter Schantz (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There is scarcely anyone in this field throughout the world today who cannot trace their legacy, either directly or indirectly, to Calvin Schwabe through his tenure at UC Davis.


Cal’s sweeping scholarly interests and accomplishments in seemingly disparate fields introduced him to a wonderful array of colleagues in a wide range of disciplines on the UC Davis campus and from throughout the world. The high esteem in which Campus peers held Cal was manifested when the Academic Senate selected him to be the 42nd annual Faculty Research Lecturer, the highest honor bestowed by that body. Legions of friends, visitors, colleagues and students enjoyed the stimulating conversation and special hospitality of the Schwabe home, where Cal and his wife, Tippy, introduced them to an equally sweeping cuisine emanating from a vast number of recipes collected from all over the world.


The National Library of Medicine in Bethesda Maryland recognized Calvin Schwabe’s special contributions to biology and medicine and became the repository for his life papers, which have been placed in its collection on the History of Medicine along with memoirs that he prepared at the Library’s request.



Philip H. Kass

Richard H. McCapes

William R. Pritchard, Chair