Hart Hall, viewed from across the roundabout at Shields Avenue and West Quad, shows off its early 20th-century academic architecture from 1927, when it was built. (UC Davis archival photo)
Namesakes: George Hart
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Hart Hall is one of the few buildings remaining from the early days of the campus. Although it housed the animal science department for 60 years, the building was restored in 1992 and now is the home to UC Davis cultural studies departments as well as human and community development (animal science moved to Meyer Hall in 1987). The building was named after George Hart, first dean of our School of Veterinary Medicine.
Veterinarian George Hart helped put the science in animal science. Later, he helped launch the School of Veterinary Medicine.
Livestock breeders responded with skepticism in 1926 when Hart — previously a veterinary science faculty member at UC Berkeley and veterinarian for the city of Los Angeles and the federal government — was appointed chair of what was then the Division of Animal Husbandry at Davis.
The division up until then had focused on teaching two-year nondegree students how to raise champion livestock. Hart soon hired nutritional biochemists, a geneticist and a physiologist — with the then-revolutionary idea that advances in livestock production would come through fundamental biological sciences.
Claude Hutchison, former dean of agriculture for the entire UC system, said later that one rancher told him at the time: “The trouble with George is he’s too sciencey.”
The livestock industry would come to appreciate Hart’s scientific approach. In 1940, Hart was selected president of the American Society of Animal Production, now the American Society of Animal Science. In 1947, the society honored Hart for his research in animal nutrition and reproduction by hanging his portrait at the International Livestock Exposition in the Union Stockyards in Chicago. The portrait now hangs at the Saddle and Sirloin Club in Louisville, Ky.
Hart’s new approach was officially recognized when the Division of Animal Husbandry was renamed the Department of Animal Science.
He went on to touch the entire campus. He helped establish some of its first graduate groups, drawing on faculty from Davis, Berkeley and San Francisco to teach graduate students in physiology, genetics and nutrition.
Hart also worked with other faculty members and administrators to plan the curriculum and buildings for the new School of Veterinary Medicine. Shortly before the first class of students enrolled in fall 1948, Hart was named dean, a post he held until his retirement in 1954.