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Moon, Harley W.

Published onOct 11, 2021
Moon, Harley W.

(March 1, 1936- October 7, 2018)

Quick Facts

Veterinarian, pathologist, and researcher.

Harley William Moon was born in Balaton, Minnesota during the depths of a blizzard. Moon graduated from Balaton High School in 1954, the year he left for the Agriculture campus of the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul. Receiving the DVM degree from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1960, he earned a veterinary pathology residency program and received a PhD in 1965.

Harley met Irene Casper when they were high school sophomores and the two proved inseparable. They married June 9, 1956.

As a young research scientist, Moon spent 1965-66 at Brookhaven National Laboratory working in the area of radiation biology and two years in the veterinary school at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. He came to Ames in 1968 to join the pathology laboratory of the National Animal Disease Center and to begin the major studies which have contributed to his impact on veterinary science. It was at the NADC that his extraordinary research on diarrheal diseases of cattle and swine was completed.

In the 1960s, Moon was one of the few researchers actively studying the pathologic effects of enterobacteria on the mammalian intestine. He was the first to describe and name a major pattern of disease in the intestinal tract – the attaching and effacing lesion produced by bacteria – a pattern that has been widely confirmed and used to characterize enteric disease of both humans and animals.

That research has led to international renown for Moon, particularly for his studies on the important pathogenic bacterium Escherichia coli, the cause of a large group of diseases that have a significant impact on the U.S. and world animal industry, and which can also cause serious and sometimes lethal disease in human.

Moon was the author of several important scientific papers, has edited several proceedings on bacterial enteric infections of animals, and has been an associate editor of the journal Veterinary Pathology. A study leave at the National University of Australia provided the impetus for future immunologic aspects of his research program. His stature as a veterinary pathologist was reflected in his election to the presidency of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in 1982 and the award of an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Zurich.

In 1989, Moon was named director of the National Animal Disease Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Ames. His seven-year tenure in that post was highlighted by his fair-handed, strong and competent leadership of veterinary research. His vision included the planning and construction of a multimillion dollar Necropsy Facility for animals and the development of a unique large animal isolation facility shared by Iowa State University and the USDA’s Agricultural Research and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. He also served briefly as the director of the USDA’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York.

In 1991, Moon was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Scientists, the only veterinarian elected and only the second veterinarian to belong to the select group of the nation’s scientists. Moon was named to the National Academy “for his work to understand and then stop a bacteria that causes fatal diarrhea in baby pigs and other newborn livestock.”

Moon was the recipient of numerous other awards throughout his career. He was inducted into the Agriculture Research Service Science Hall of Fame in 2000, was a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and an Honorary Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists.

In 1996, Moon retired from the federal government and joined Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine as the inaugural holder of the Frank K. Ramsey Endowed Chair. At Iowa State, he continued his research, taught courses and served as an expert on bioterrorism and animal health to Congress and to national and international media outlets until his retirement in 2003. Moon died Oct. 7, 2018, at the age of 82 in Danville, Pa from complications due to Parkinson's Disease and prostate cancer.

Selected Sources

College of Veterinary Medicine archived files.

“Leading Vet Med researcher joins ISU faculty and staff” By Colleen Mullen, Iowa State Daily. Nov 28, 1995.

Obituary, Ames Tribune, November 3, 2018

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