The Department of Animal Science traces its beginning to 1920 with the formation of the Animal Husbandry “group” within the College of Agriculture. In 1949, the Animal Husbandry group changed to the Animal Husbandry-Veterinary Science group, and in 1950, according to the UT Record of that year, became known as a department rather than a group. It remained Animal Husbandry-Veterinary Science until 1972, when the Dairy and Poultry departments merged with it to form the Department of Animal Science. The Dairy group had a similar history as the Animal Husbandry group, originating in 1920, whereas the Department of Poultry Husbandry was not formed until approximately 1948.
Although departmental origins trace back to 1920, a master’s program was approved in 1907. Animal science thesis-based graduate degrees were initially awarded as an MS with an agriculture major. The first degree on departmental record was awarded to Ben Prim Hazelwood in 1926, for the “Survey of the Knoxville Milk Supply.” Dr. C.E. Wylie, first of only two department heads of what was to become the Dairy department, served as his major professor. The first thesis-based MS degree majoring in animal husbandry was awarded in 1933 to Thomas Luther Mayes for “A Comparison between the Income from Flocks of Barred Plymouth Rocks and Single Comb White Leghorn Hens.” While the first thesis-based MS degree in animal science was awarded in 1971, MS degrees in animal husbandry weren’t granted until 1974. A PhD program in animal husbandry was approved in 1960, and was the first in the College of Agriculture. In 1965, three graduates received PhDs (Robert Donald Waddell majored in animal husbandry under the tutelage of Dr. H.J. Smith; Ted Painter McDonald and John Newton Williams, II, majored in animal science under the tutelage of Dr. C.S. Hobbs).
The University of Tennessee is noted as the first coed institution of higher learning, and the College of Agriculture had a special program for women before 1920. Even so, it was not until 1965 that a woman received a graduate degree in animal science-based disciplines. Emily Ann Davis majored in poultry under the tutelage of Dr. J.K. Bletner; her MS thesis was titled, “Supplementation of Chick Diets Containing High Levels of Hydrolyzed Feather Mill.” In 1974, Carol Ann Clark of Lenoir City, Tennessee, was the first woman to receive the MS degree majoring in animal science under the tutelage of Dr. C.C. Chamberlain for “Observations on Metabolism of Selected Minerals in the Developing Horse.” The first woman to receive a PhD majoring in animal science was Harriet Corrick in 1973. She was the wife of Dr. Jim Corrick, who was a faculty member in the department.
Several times during the history of this department growth occurred in both the research program and in student numbers. The first of these occurred in the late 1940s, when, actually, two things happened. First, World War II ended, which led to larger enrollments of students who had their college studies interrupted by the war and other students entering for the first time. Second, two research projects were established, one of which would eventually lead to a long and fruitful joint effort between the University of Tennessee and the Atomic Energy Commission at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Dr. C.S. Hobbs, who assumed the department head role in 1947, had learned of some cattle that had accidentally been exposed to atomic bomb tests in New Mexico. Supposedly, on the spur of the moment, he went to New Mexico and purchased these cattle along with an unexposed herd and had them sent back to Tennessee. Through his efforts, these cattle became the building block for the formation of the UT-AEC group at Oak Ridge. Studies concentrated on radiation effects on vitamins, minerals, and hormones, as well as reproductive function and sperm physiology. The other project was the fluorine study in cooperation with Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) and other companies, namely, Monsanto Chemical Company and Victor Chemical Company. Hooker Chemical Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) also provided assistance. The research was supported primarily through grant monies from these companies.
Because animal science involves a combination of many allied disciplines, including chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, genomics, and statistics, the types of MS and PhD programs available to students today are more flexible. Areas of research emphases include various aspects of animal physiology (ruminant and monogastric nutrition, reproduction, stress, and obesity) and health and well-being (immunology, genomics, microbiology, pre-harvest food safety, and behavior). In part, this transition of emphases for our graduate program reflects the changing employment opportunities for our MS and PhD students, which are focused on innovative technologies and the generation of new scientific knowledge to increase animal production and health, and the profitability of animal industries. Industry-supported grants typically focus on new marketable technologies, taking our research into the realm of intellectual property and patent development. Additionally, emerging funding programs of the USDA and the National Institutes of Health are also focused on using agricultural animals as models for human diseases and disorders. All of these opportunities are increasingly being sought to find needed funds to support a viable graduate program.
While no permanent records were kept on jobs taken by animal husbandry/animal science graduates, one would suspect that prior to the 1970s, a majority of graduates were employed in some aspect of production agriculture (e.g., herdsmen/managers, livestock grooming and fitting, as well as owner/operators of farming operations). In more recent times, our graduate alumni are finding careers in biotechnical, animal health, or nutrition companies, leading their research laboratories, providing technical support, or marketing their products. Others are managing human reproduction clinics, and others are leading the quality control programs for all of the above and other diverse industries. Additionally, some of our graduate alumni are entering other professional programs, eventually leading to careers in human and veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or law. And as in the past, our MS and PhD students continue to find careers in academia and Extension.
(Many thanks to Dr. Frank Masincupp for assistance with maintaining this aspect of a departmental history.)