Herriot, James (1916-1995) was a British veterinarian. His popular stories based on his country practice sold millions of copies in 20 countries.
Herriot was born James Alfred Wight. He was the son of a ship plater. He graduated from Glasgow Veterinary College in 1939. Medical circumstances kept him from completing Royal Air Force aircrew training, and he finished his service with ground duties. He took up veterinary practice in Thirsk, a rural community in northern England, and spent the rest of his life there. He used Herriot as a pen name and changed the name of the town to Darrowby in his books.
With his basic plot—an animal falls ill, complications ensue, the doctor usually effects a cure—Herriot transformed the veterinarian into a sympathetic hero. He planned most of his stories while driving along rural lanes between farms. Herriot adopted as his pen name the name of a Scottish goalie.
Herriot had trouble placing his first two books, If Only They Could Talk (1970) and It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet (1972). Selections from the two books were collected in All Creatures Great and Small (1972). It was immediately successful in the United States and inspired a television series. In 1979, Herriot was awarded the Order of the British Empire.
As Herriot began to retire from veterinary practice in the 1980's, he wrote children's books. Every Living Thing, published in 1992, brought his veterinary activities up to date. James Herriot's Cat Stories (1995) was an illustrated collection of stories from his earlier works. At the time of his death, Herriot was writing an introduction to James Herriot's Favorite Dog Stories (1996).