Updated: Aug 29, 2020
Known for his work in the development of anti-hog cholera serum, a tuberculin for bovine tuberculosis and methods for controlling poultry pullorum.
1872-1935 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
Marion Dorset, a gifted high school scholar, was admitted to the University of Tennessee as a second year student. In 1894, he interrupted medical school at the University of Pennsylvania to accept a position as assistant chemist in the Biochemic Laboratory of the Bureau of Animal Industry, U. S. Department of Agriculture. He attended night school, earning his medical degree from George Washington University in 1896. Iowa State College awarded the honorary degree of doctor of veterinary medicine to him as well. In 1900, he was made assistant chief of the Biochemic Division at the USDA, advancing to chief four years later.
Dr. Dorset’s medical discoveries made a significant impact on the livestock industry. He determined the cause of hog cholera—a disease that was decimating swine populations in the U. S.—and, in 1916, developed the serum to cure it. He supervised the nation-wide campaign to eradicate bovine tuberculosis, and discovered the rapid method for detecting pullorum disease in chickens. Dorset also invented the purple ink inspection stamp to mark federally inspected meats.
Dr. Marion Dorset was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honorary member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1915, Iowa State College awarded him an honorary DVM degree.
Did You Know?
In 1885 the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture thought they had the answer when they discovered a new genus of bacteria in cholera infected pigs. The bacteria, named Salmonella choleraesuis, turned out to be a red herring, but investigators continued to follow this lead for nearly 20 more years.
In 1903 BAI researchers Emil A. de Schweinitz and Marion Dorset discovered the real cause of hog cholera—a virus. Scientists at this time had no reliable tools for seeing viruses, which are 10 to 100 times smaller than bacteria. Instead, they used a very fine-pored porcelain filter to remove bacteria from samples, and then tested whether or not the samples were still infectious. They found that when blood from a pig with hog cholera was filtered, the bacteria-free filtrate was still capable of causing hog cholera in healthy pigs. This proved that hog cholera resulted from something smaller than bacteria—they called this something a "filterable virus."
Dr. Dorset worked out a formula for an ink that could be used for marketing federally inspected meats and this one piece of work has saved the United States government millions of dollars through eliminating the necessity of using tags for the purpose.