University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food & Environment


Gluck Center > About Us > Equine Research Hall of Fame > Theiler

Photo of Hall of Fame Horse StatueThe Equine Research Hall of Fame — Arnold Theiler


Photo of Dr. Theiler
Arnold Theiler
South Africa
Sir Arnold Theiler investigated the great plagues of South Africa, the successful results of which stabilized the country’s livestock population, and aided equine health practices around the world. He also organized and directed the Onderstepoort Laboratories in Pretoria which became one of the world’s great veterinary research centers.
Inducted December 1990.

Sir Arnold Theiler is best known for his tremendous work in domestic animal disease research in South Africa, where he investigated the great plagues (piroplasmosis, anaplasmosis, African Horse Sickness, and rinderpest) which had crippled the livestock industry there. The results of his work eventually stabilized the country’s livestock industry, bringing him world renown. Dr. Theiler also organized and directed the Onderstepoort Laboratories in Pretoria, South Africa, which has become one of the world’s great veterinary research centers. His hard work proved to be fundamental to later research advances.

Dr. Theiler was born in 1867 in Frick, Switzerland, and received his Federal Swiss Diploma of Veterinary Surgeon in Zurich in 1889. A man with a strong personality and spirit of adventure, Dr. Theiler traveled to South Africa to set up a practice. His work was noticed by the country’s president, and, in 1896, he was named Veterinary Surgeon for the Republic. In 1901, he achieved a D.V.M. degree from the University of Berne (Switzerland). Dr. Theiler held several important government posts, while continuing his research work in parasitology and bacteriology. In 1920, he organized the veterinary faculty of the Union of South Africa. He retired to Switzerland in 1927, but continued microbiologic and nutritional investigations there until his death in 1936.

Dr. Theiler was the first to recognize anaplasmosis as a distinct disease and he developed improved techniques for the identification of pathogenic bacteria and parasitic protozoa. He developed an early vaccine for African Horse Sickness, laying the foundation for the research that led to effective prevention of this often fatal disease. In a 1936 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, he was regarded as “one to whom the world owes a debt of gratitude and whose life was an inspiration for his contemporaries and those that follow.”

Sir Arnold Theiler was knighted in recognition of his services to the British Empire in 1914, and was awarded a Doctor of Science award from Syracuse University, an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Berne and was named an honorary associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, England, all in 1923. In 1934, he was given the Budapest Prize for outstanding research in veterinary problems. Dr. Theiler's accomplishments, honors and awards earned him the respect and admiration of researchers throughout the world.

Maxwell H.Gluck Equine Research Center
Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40546-0099

Main Office (859) 257-4757
Fax (859) 257-8542