George Fleming

Birth: 1833


George Fleming (1833-1901), veterinary surgeon, born at Glasgow on 11 March 1833, was son of a working shoeing-smith there. Early in life he was taken by his father to Manchester, where both were employed in the farrier's shop of a veterinary surgeon. He subsequently entered the service of a well-known veterinary surgeon of Manchester, John Lawson, who sent him to Dick's College in Edinburgh. He took several medals and prizes, and in 1855 obtained the certificate of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, which was then recognized as a veterinary diploma. At the end of that year he entered the army veterinary service, and served in the Crimea until the termination of the war.

In 1860 he volunteered for the expedition to North China, and was present at the capture of the Taku Forts and the surrender of Pekin, receiving for his services a medal with two clasps. Whilst in China he undertook an expedition beyond the Great Wall, which he described in 'Travels on Horseback in Manchu Tartary' (1865). In 1866 he obtained the diploma of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and in 1867 served with the army in Syria and Egypt. On his return he spent some years with the royal engineers at Chatham. In 1879 he was appointed inspecting veterinary surgeon at the war office, and in 1883 principal veterinary surgeon to the army. In 1887 he was made C.B. and in 1890 he retired from the army.

Fleming became a vice-president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1867, a year after his admission, and a member of council in 1868. He was elected president in 1880, when the agitation for an act of parliament to restrict the title of veterinary surgeon to the diploma-holders of the college had become acute, and by his energy and pertinacity he was mainly instrumental in securing the passage through parliament of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1881, which imposed a penalty upon unqualified persons who took or used the title of veterinary surgeon. The misuse of the title had become a public scandal. Fleming was in gratitude re-elected president for three years in succession (1881-4), and again in 1886-7. His portrait (full-length) was painted by B. Hudson, and presented to the college by subscription on 7 May 1883, 'as a token,' according to the inscription at the foot, 'of sincere esteem and gratitude.'

He received in 1883 the honorary degree of LL.D. from the University of Glasgow. He died on 13 April 1901 at Higher Leigh, Combe Martin, North Devon, his residence in later life. He was three times married: (1) to Alice, daughter of J. Peake of Atherstone in 1863; (2) to Susan, daughter of W. Solomon of Upchurch, Kent, in 1878; (3) to Anna, daughter of Colonel R. D. Pennefather of Kilbracken, co. Leitrim, who survived him and afterwards remarried.


Fleming was a voluminous writer, contributing largely to professional journals and to general reviews. He translated from the French Chauveau's 'Comparative Anatomy of the Domesticated Animals' (1873; 2nd edit. 1891), and from the German Neumann's 'Parasites and Parasitical Diseases of the Domesticated Animals' (1892; 2nd edit. 1905). His separately published works include: 1. 'Vivisection: Is it necessary or justifiable?' 1866. 2. 'Horse-Shoes and Horse-Shoeing—their Origin, History, etc.,' 1869. 3. 'Animal Plagues: their History, Nature, and Prevention,' vol. i. 1871; vol. ii. 1882. 4. 'Practical Horse-Shoeing,' 1872; 10th edit. 1900. 5. 'Rabies and Hydrophobia,' 1872. 6. 'A Manual of Veterinary Sanitary Science and Policy,' 2 vols. 1875. 7. 'A Text Book of Veterinary Obstetrics,' 1878; 2nd edit. 1896. 8. 'The Influence of Heredity and Contagion in the Propagation of Tuberculosis,' 1883. 9. 'Operative Veterinary Surgery,' vol. i. 1884. 10. 'The Practical Horse-Keeper,' 1886. His library of 900 volumes of books on professional subjects was given by him in 1900 to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

[The Times, 10 April 1901; Veterinary Record, vol. xiii. 27 April 1901; personal knowledge.]


Ernest Clarke, Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement. pg. 33.

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