(May 15, 1892-January 20, 1967)
Veterinarian, pathologist and Iowa State University faculty member.
Edward Benbrook was born in South Orange, New Jersey. As a young child in New Jersey, Benbrook appeared as an extra in the 1903 movie The Great Train Robbery, which was considered the first American action film and the first Western film. Benbrook appeared as an extra on the train as it is being robbed. When Benbrook first saw the film, he recalled, “You could see me, one of the younger kids, standing in the front row with my hands held high above my head.” After graduating high school, he worked as a janitor and general clean-up man for an animal lab in New York City. That experience prompted his enrollment in veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned his doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) in 1914. After receiving his DVM, Benbrook became a veterinary pathology assistant and an instructor in veterinary bacteriology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1915, he took a position at Oklahoma A&M College (now known as Oklahoma State University) as an instructor in the Department of Veterinary Science. There he was soon promoted to assistant professor, where he remained until 1918. He married Jessie C. Whittle in 1917 and the couple had two children, Stanley and Kathryn.
That year, Benbrook joined the Iowa State College (University) as an associate professor of veterinary investigation. He was named a full professor and head of the Department of Veterinary Pathology a year later. He held this position until 1957 when he retired as department head. Benbrook continued as a professor of veterinary pathology and parasitology until 1962 and then on a part-time basis until his death on January 20, 1967.
Under Benbrook’s leadership, the Department of Veterinary Pathology became world-renowned for its innovations and instruction, obtaining national and international prominence. The department provided diagnostic services in infectious and parasitic diseases in livestock and poultry. The department served as a forerunner to Iowa State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. In 1946, Benbrook became the first director of the ISU VDL. His expertise and direction helped establish the foundation for what has become the nation’s top diagnostic laboratory in a veterinary college in the United States.
Benbrook was the author and/or co-author of several articles and publications. His collaboration in 1948 with Dr. Margaret Sloss (1901-1979) on Veterinary Clinical Parasitology assisted in the increasingly important diagnosis of animal diseases by lab techniques. The text gained international acclaim and was used in classrooms throughout the world. It is one of the numerous publications that Benbrook and Sloss collaborated on.
He was also the author of Diseases of Poultry and Lists of Parasites of Domestic Animals in North America, which was published in 1945. This publication was also used internationally and was subsequently reprinted five times.
Benbrook’s influence stretched far beyond Ames and Iowa State. He provided expert advice to veterinarians across the globe and stayed in contact with Iowa State veterinary alumni. One of those alumni who continued to consult with Benbrook was Dr. Edward Bertram Evans Sr. (1894-1976), one of the first two African Americans to graduate in veterinary medicine at Iowa State. With close guidance from Benbrook, Evans and two other Iowa State graduates, Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson (1901-1988) and Dr. T.S. Williams ( -2002), founded the veterinary school at Tuskegee Institute in 1944. Benbrook gave the inaugural address at the new Tuskegee veterinary school.
In addition to his work at Iowa State and with other veterinary colleges, Benbrook was also an active member in several professional organizations including: American Veterinary Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Research Workers in Animal Diseases, American Society of Parasitologists, and the National Board of Veterinary Examiners. He served as an associate editor of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA).
For his achievements as a research and educator, Benbrook received several awards from Iowa State including the prestigious Clarence Hartley Covault Distinguished Professor in Veterinary Medicine (1959), and Professor of the Year in the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1961.
The Dr. E.A. Benbrook Endowed Chair in Pathology and Parasitology has been established in Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine through a donation by Benbrook’s son and daughter-in-law, Stanley and Jane Stahlings Benbrook. Dr. Richard Martin, Clarence Hartley Covault Distinguished Professor in Veterinary Medicine, is the inaugural holder of the Benbrook Chair in Pathology and Parasitology. Dr. Martin’s continuum of innovation and high impact contributions to the field of parasitology make him an exemplary and worthy initial recipient of this chair in honor of Edward Antony Benbrook.
Stanley Benbrook, himself a DVM graduate of Iowa State who learned at his father’s footsteps and in an Iowa State classroom, reflected on his father when he established the Benbrook Chair…
“I saw so many people who were really important in the running and development of Iowa State who were never properly recognized. I thought, by golly, I’m going to do something to make sure my father is remembered. And after all, he was a distinctive professor and an active member of the faculty.”
Edward Benbrook Papers, RS 14/07/12, University Archives, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library, Ames.
Iowa State Daily, February 22, 1964