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Merchant, Ival Arthur

Published onJul 30, 2021
Merchant, Ival Arthur

(February 9, 1898 - December 19, 1985)

Quick Facts

Merchant was an internationally known teacher, research scientist, and administrator in the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University. Known for his textbook “Veterinary Bacteriology”.

Source: ISU Vet Med

The multiple editions of his textbook “Veterinary Bacteriology,” first published in 1940, were used throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. His scientific studies centered on pathogenic bacteria as causes of animal diseases and as important bacteria for public health, especially in their roles in meat hygiene and milk sanitation. For twenty years he was an administrator: Head of the Department of Hygiene for nine years (succeeding Charles Murray) and Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine for eleven years. He was the fifth dean of the Division of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University).

Ival Arthur Merchant was born on a fruit ranch near the North Fork of the Muddy River in western Colorado on February 9, 1898. His father was one of the early fruit farmers in the western slope and the principal of Paonia’s first high school. His mother, Mary Wade, was the daughter of Sam Wade who first explored the North Fork Valley and founded the town of Paonia. Merchant graduated from Paonia High School in 1916 receiving the “Emory Cup,” given to the boy who was the best student and athlete. Leaving to find work in Los Angeles, he returned to Colorado two years later to recuperate from a nearly fatal bout of influenza pneumonia in 1918.

Finding work in a Fort Collins clothing store, he met and began a life-long friendship with Dr. W.H. Feldman, a noted veterinary pathologist. Feldman persuaded him to try veterinary school, and he enrolled in Colorado Agricultural College where he received the DVM degree in 1924. There were only 16 men in his veterinary class since it was widely assumed in the 1920s that the automobile was making this profession obsolete. During his time in Fort Collins, Merchant had met and married Iza Marie White, a transfer from the University of California.

Upon graduation as a veterinarian Merchant took a job with the USDA’s Bureau of Animal Industry Meat Inspection service in Omaha, Nebraska. Interested in pathology (because of Feldman) he solicited E.A. Benbrook at Iowa State College for a faculty position. He was accepted and began as instructor in veterinary pathology in November 1926. At Iowa State, Dr. Merchant received his Master of Science degree in 1928 under E.A. Benbrook with his thesis “A Survey of the Nematode Parasites of Domestic Animals in Iowa.” With the transfer of the diagnostic service to the pathology department in 1928, and with C.D. Rice in charge, Dr. Merchant became Assistant Professor with responsibilities for the course in veterinary bacteriology, a course he taught until 1943.

Ival Merchant was awarded the PhD degree in veterinary bacteriology in 1933 under the direction of D. Charles Murray, now Dean Emeritus; the title of his thesis was “A Study of the Corynebacteria Associated with Diseases of Domestic Animals.” The Department of Veterinary Hygiene had been created in 1930 under Dean Stange who was also department head until his death in 1936 when Murray was made head. An arrangement with the City of Ames to supervise its milk sanitation testing gave the new department a laboratory.

Spending the school year of 1933-34 at Yale University in the College of Medicine’s School of Public Health, he received the C.P.H. degree. Returning to Iowa State, he was promoted to Associate Professor, and on the retirement of Dean Murray in 1943, was made professor and head of the Department of Veterinary Hygiene. His graduate students that moved on to become noted in veterinary bacteriology included A.G. Karlson, Carlos Rosenbusch, E.H. Coles, G.R. Carter, John Collier and W.P. Switzer.

During his career, Ival Merchant played important leadership roles in organized veterinary medicine and public health. He was an active member in the American Veterinary Medical Association and served on many of its committees. He was also a member of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases, the International Association of Food Sanitarians, the United States Livestock Sanitary Association, and the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association. He was a charter member of the Society of Veterinary Bacteriologists and of the National Board of Veterinary Public Health (and was chairman of its Committee on Education). Appointed by the National Institutes of Health Review Panel, Ival Merchant was a U.S. State Department consultant regarding veterinary schools in Spain, France, the Netherlands and West Germany. The Pan American Sanitary Bureau sent him to South American for consultant work.

In Iowa, Merchant was appointed by the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Clyde Spry, to membership in the Special Study Committee on Brucellosis, to be an advisor for legislation on the control of that disease. He was member of the honorary fraternities Phi Zeta (1941), Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, Alpha Psi and Delta Omega. He was a member of Sigma Nu social fraternity. Merchant was President of the Iowa Interprofessional Association composed of representatives of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, Iowa Medical Society, Iowa State Nurses Association, Iowa Pharmacy Association, and the Iowa Hospital Association.

After arriving in Ames, Merchant’s wife Iza was appointed as a faculty member at Iowa State College as an instructor in English. Later, she was the first Social Director for the College and organized the Ward System for men. The Merchant marriage produced three children: Nancy Marie (1935); Mary Alice (1937), and James Arthur (1940). His son, James Merchant, graduated in medicine and became the founding dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa; and James’ son Joe was to become an oncologist practicing in Ames at McFarland Clinic and Mary Greeley Medical Center.

In their early years in Ames, the Merchants were members of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Dr. Merchant was active in civic and church affairs having served as advisor for the Boy Scouts, president of the Ames Rotary Club (1947), and as official milk sanitarian of Ames. He was named an Honorary Alumnus in 1961 by Colorado State University and given the Alumni Merit Award by the Iowa State Club of Chicago.

Ival Arthur Merchant died on December 19, 1985 in Hemet, California and was buried in Ames at the Iowa State University Cemetery along side his first wife Iza on December 23. He was survived by his second wife, Alberta Bliss Merchant.

Selected Sources

Anon. Dr. I. A. Merchant Appointed New Dean. Iowa State College Veterinarian 14 (3):165- 167, 1952.

Anon. Hygiene Department. Iowa State College Veterinarian 13 (2):99-101, 1951

Merchant, I. A. Parting thoughts. Iowa State Veterinarian No. 3, p. 111, 1962-53.

Packer, R. A. 1981. Tribute to Dr. I. A. Merchant. Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease. November 9, Chicago, Illinois.

"Dean Merchant," Iowa State University Veterinarian: Vol. 15 : Iss. 1 , Article 1 (1953).
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