The first veterinary school in the world was created in Lyon in 1761 by an equerry, Claude Bourgelat (1712-1779).
Claude Bourgelat, a man renowned for his skill in horsemanship and horse medicine, a man fully able to understand the issues of his time. Aware of the scope of the physiocratic movement and of the need to improve the health of farm animals.
He was able to understand the expectations of Henri-Léonard Bertin, Minister of King Louis XV, in proposing the creation of an establishment, breaking with traditional farriery.
When the school was founded two years earlier, the king had given it only a short-term grant. This left the school’s long-term prospects in jeopardy. But after the Lyon students proved their worth in managing and preventing epizootic diseases, Bertin and the king were convinced. The king’s decree in 1764 that Lyon be given the title Royal Veterinary School meant that it would be supported by the state, according to Bost.
That same year, Bourgelat was designated director and inspector general of the Lyon Veterinary School “and of all such schools which exist or which shall exist in our Kingdom” as well as commissioner general of the royal horse-breeding establishments. By then, Lyon had 36 new enrollees; enrollment would later stabilize at 30 new students per year.
For Bertin, the Lyon school was only the first step in contributing to the country’s animal and agricultural health. In 1764, he ordered Bourgelat to create another veterinary school. This time it was located in Alfort, just outside Paris. Bourgelat established the standards for the two veterinary schools in 1777 and would continue to teach until he died Jan. 3, 1779, at age 67.years