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Dukes, H. Hugh

Published onAug 04, 2021
Dukes, H. Hugh

(September 9, 1895 – June 8, 1987)

Quick Facts

A highly regarded professor of veterinary physiology, Dukes would educate students across Iowa, the United States, and the world.


Veterinary Physiology class headed by Dr. Henry Dale Bergman and Dr. Henry Hugh Dukes, 1929
Source: ISU Library/Special Collections Dept.

Henry Hugh Dukes was born near St. George, South Carolina, on September 9, 1895. He attended the St. George Public Schools but did not graduate; however, with permission from his parents, took the entrance examination to be admitted to Clemson Agricultural College in September of 1911 on a scholarship. The course of study was Agriculture and Animal Industry. The last year of the course was nearly the equivalent of the first year of veterinary medicine and consisted mostly of anatomy and histology and was designed for people who planned to continue studies at a veterinary college. His Bachelor of Science degree was received from Clemson in June of 1915. In his search for a fellowship or an assistantship, it was discovered that a fellowship in physiology had just been established at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University), Ames, Iowa. He applied for the position and was accepted. It paid $400 for ten months of service and permitted the holder to pursue the course requirements for a degree in veterinary medicine.

The Division of Veterinary Medicine physical plant was new and the equipment was the best available. Morale of both students and staff was high. Dukes became student assistant in physiology and was involved with laboratory teaching. He supplemented his $40/month salary working in restaurant and cafeteria food service. The veterinary program was accelerated by the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 and the class was inducted into the Medical Enlisted Reserve Corps which allowed them to complete their education and receive the degree Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, awarded in January 1918. Following graduation he returned to Clemson for about five months teaching and providing livestock sanitary work for the State of South Carolina. He was called into active duty at Camp Greenleaf, Chicamauga Park, Georgia, where he continued until being discharged, soon after the Armistice was signed, on November 11, 1918.

Vocational opportunities were pursued following army discharge including teaching at Clemson for two years, and a combination of general practice and public health, at Greer, South Carolina, for fifteen months. In 1921, Dukes accepted an offer from Iowa State to teach and do graduate work. This was pursued, and he received the Master of Science degree in Veterinary Physiology in 1923, and thereafter, began teaching physiology courses that included both lectures and laboratories. In 1925, he was promoted to assistant professor of veterinary physiology, continued teaching, and at the same time began a revision of his lecture notes into a more organized form. In the meantime, a flat tire and an invitation for him to “clean-up” afterwards in the house near where it occurred, was an occasion for him to meet a young lady named Mary Alice Kent, from Dallas Center, Iowa, who was spending the weekend in Ames visiting a friend. Kent had graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1922. This random acquaintance was continued as a friendship, then culminated in their marriage in 1927.

In 1929, Dukes was invited to join the Veterinary Medical Research Institute of the Veterinary College as an assistant professor of veterinary research (physiology). He devoted three years to research and writing whereby a number of research papers were published. The earlier revision of lecture notes into a more organized form continued and became focused upon in his vision for a physiology textbook with organized text now ready to be offered to a publisher.

In 1932 he was invited for an interview at the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. He accepted their offer to be Professor of Veterinary Physiology and Head of the Department of Physiology. During this time, his vision for a physiology text book came to fruition when The Physiology of Domestic Animals was published in 1933 and again in 1934 by Edwards Brothers, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan. The first two lithoprint editions were followed by the third revised edition in 1935 with an improved format, printed from type, by Comstock Publishing Associates, a Division of Cornell University Press. The seventh edition was the last one that he authored and it published in 1955. Each edition was dedicated to M.K.D. in reference to his wife. All editions that followed were multi-authored, each with an editor, and were titled Dukes’ Physiology of Domestic Animals. He was recognized as the dean of veterinary physiologists and students worldwide have studied from his textbook.

Source: Cornell eCommons

While at Cornell University, he served on Special Committees for 250 graduate students. He was active professionally and memberships included American Physiological Society; New York State Veterinary Medical Society; New York State Society for Medical Research; Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine; American Association for Advancement of Science; New York Academy of Science; and American Veterinary Medical Association. Service activities included Chairman, Section on Research, at the AVMA Annual Meeting; Member, AVMA Research Council; AVMA Representative on Division of Biology and Agriculture, National Research Council; and National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners for Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology.

He retired from Cornell University in 1960 as Professor Emeritus and returned to live in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1961, and resumed activities at Iowa State University as a professor of veterinary physiology. He gave demonstrations in living biology to junior high and high school students, and veterinary students in Iowa and other universities, including the British Isles and South America. In 1965 he was invited to give the inaugural Sir Frederick Smith Memorial Lecture at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. Sir Frederick Smith was a veterinarian who authored A Manual of Veterinary Physiology, a textbook preceding The Physiology of Domestic Animals, which was the first American veterinary physiology textbook.

In recognition of his outstanding professional achievements, numerous awards and honors were received. Included among them were an honorary doctoral degree from the Rural University of Brazil in 1953, Borden Award in 1960, Twelfth International Veterinary Congress Prize in 1963, Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Clemson University in 1966, Distinguished Physiologist Award from the American Society of Veterinary Physiologists and Pharmacologists in 1973, Stange Award from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University in 1975, Alumni Distinguished Service Award from Clemson University in 1976, and the Distinguished Achievement Citation from the Iowa State University Alumni Association in 1977. In 2001, an award was established in his memory with The Iowa State University Foundation, as an endowment to provide financial support for a veterinarian pursuing the PhD in the Biomedical Sciences Department, with a first preference in physiology, at Iowa State University.

His 90th birthday was celebrated September 9th, 1985, at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, with him and his wife, Mary, in attendance. Many faculty, staff, and veterinary students, who either knew him or knew of him, came by to extend greetings. He and his wife celebrated their 6oth wedding anniversary June 7th, 1987.

He died June 8th, 1987, age 91, followed by his wife Mary Kent Dukes, at age 96, in 1996. Burial of both was at the Brethren Cemetery, Dallas Center, Iowa.

Selected Sources

Henry Hugh Dukes Papers, RS 14/8/52, Special Collections and University Archives, Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa.

History, College of Veterinary Medicine, online exhibition

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