Irmgard Gylstorff, neé Hamp, was born to schoolteacher parents on 3 April 1912 an died on 26 June 1990. After schooling in Munich, she studied at the Veterinary Faculty of Munich Ludwig-Maximilians University, becoming qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 1935 and, with a thesis on tuberculosis in fur-bearing animals, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1936. In 1939 she became the first woman to pass the examination for state veterinarians.
Appointed scientific assistance to Dr Oskar Seifried, and later Professor Dr Hans Sedlmeir, Irmgard Gylstorff was entrusted with the development of implementation of a poultry health service for Bavaria, later extended to include Salzburg, Tirol and Voralberg - areas which today form part of Austria. During the difficult years of the Second World War she was appointed provisional head of the Institute of Veterinary Pathology, a period when teaching in the faculty was at a standstill. Subsequently she directed her energies to the maintenance and reconstruction of the faculty following the complete destruction of the department building in January 1945. However, also in 1945, a poultry health service was re-established and she headed this organization up to 1960.
In 1952 she qualified as a university lecturer in general pathology, pathological anatomy and histopathology and was appointed 'university teacher'. By this time she had also established a reputation as a meticulous and dedicated research scientist. Early published papers included work on the experimental pathology of diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies and avian osteomyelosclerosis. In 1958 she was appointed 'Extraordinary Professor'. Two years later Dr Gylstorff took up the chair of Avian Diseases and Animal Hygiene at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover. Not only was she the first woman ever to take up such an appointment, this was the first faculty dealing with poultry disease to be created at a European university. From the provisional buildings in which the institute has been established, Professor Gylstorff was closely involved with the plans and construction of a new building which was completed in 1965.
However, she now responded to a call from the Veterinary Faculty of Munich Ludwig-Maximilians University - her home city - where a new institute for diseases of poultry, ornamental and zoo birds was being established. Again, starting from provisional accommodation on what had been a poultry farm, she was closely involved in building the institute at which she stayed until retirement in 1981. While in Hannover, but subsequently with greater intensity, she widened her interests to include non-commercial birds, initially budgerigars and canaries, but later 'everything with feathers'. While at Munich, Professor Gylstorff was Dean of the Veterinary Faculty in the year 1969-70 (the first lady Dean at a veterinary faculty worldwide) and Vice-Dean in the following year.
Her early work as Scientific Assistant and in setting up a poultry health service determined her career and led on to the publication of over 120 scientific papers as well as books and contributions to books on both avian diseases and the keeping of birds. These are continuing reminders of her ability and far-sightedness which stemmed from a time when few believed that birds would ever be included in veterinary practice. In the process of founding the two chairs in Hannover and Munich she endowed them both with a self-understanding that has continued to influence their development. Professor Gylstorff's background and experience resulted in her being appointed as an expert on many national and international committees and she also worked as a member and officer of several national and international associations, including being chairman of the European Society for Veterinary Pathology, Secretary of the German Branch of the Worlds' Veterinary Poultry Association (WVPA), the first lady President of the World body and ultimately, in 1981, 'Honorary Life President' of the WVPA. In recognition of her services she was awarded the Theodor Kitt Medal of the Munich Veterinary Association.
Professor Gylstorff should be considered as the philosophical and scientific founder of the discipline of avian medicine. She was first to teach and train veterinary students in this field, one which rapidly attained the significance she had prophesied. Her death ended not only the life of a highly esteemed scientist, but also that of a warm-hearted human being who was not only the centre of her family but offered her support as a friend and colleague in all situations.