To Ralph W. Phillips, international animal geneticist and reproduction physiologist, a good family vacation included side trips to hog-breeding stations.
Before moving his family to Rome for his career, Phillips wanted his daughter to see the United States. What better way, he figured, than to stop at universities and ranches to study their breeding programs?
In retirement, he made a conference on animal production the focus of a holiday trip to Lapland.
"He joked about visiting his offspring all over the world," said Maria Yates, his daughter.
Yaks, rams, water buffalo and rare animal hybrids worldwide lost one of their enthusiastic chroniclers when Phillips died of respiratory failure Jan. 7. He was 93 and lived at Powhatan Nursing Home in Falls Church.
Phillips grew up on a farm in West Virginia and became an authority on artificial insemination. At the University of Missouri, he delighted in shocking the small crowd at his graduation with graphic allusions to his doctoral dissertation.
He became executive director of international organization affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was a founding editor of the Journal of Animal Science and retired in 1982 as deputy director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
He wrote more than 200 scientific papers, examining such topics as the estrous cycle in sheep. He titled his autobiography "The World Was My Barnyard."
Tall, self-disciplined, soft-spoken, never less than immaculate in manner and dress, Phillips insisted on wearing a sport coat before going outside to check his mail.
He had a reputation as a grind, but he also could be unexpectedly encouraging with advice -- especially when it came to travel. "He was the single one in our entire family who thought we weren't entirely crazy to go to Asia for four years," Yates said.
She added: "His mother had other ideas for him. She wanted him to be a chicken farmer and marry a hometown girl she picked out. He had an inner vision of himself, always."
Phillips called his upbringing humorless and impoverished. Decades later, he still dreaded Christmas, associating it with times of want.
With little money for college, he went to inexpensive Berea College in Kentucky, where a teacher persuaded him to pursue graduate work at the University of Missouri. He had to borrow $200 from Berea's president to support himself at Missouri.
He counted among his greatest awards the honorary doctorates years later from Berea and West Virginia University, the college he could not afford to attend in his youth.
At Missouri, he studied the effects of temperature on ram spermatozoa and wrote scholarly papers so he might get a teaching job in those Depression years. In 1933, he became an instructor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and taught animal nutrition and other subjects.
At a faculty function, he met his wife-to-be, Mary Pozzi, a vivacious vision in a brown velvet evening gown. His mother, a Methodist, never quite forgave him for marrying a Catholic.
They settled in the Washington area in 1936, when Phillips took an animal genetics job at the Agriculture Department in Beltsville. One of the most important points in his career came in 1943, when he began a 13-month assignment as a State Department consultant on animal breeding in China and India.
He considered his work in Asia some of the most significant of his career. He settled in the Chinese wartime capital of Chongqing and soon went about documenting types of livestock and how they were managed in the national economy.
He also met Ilya Tolstoy, grandson of Leo who was on assignment for the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA. Tolstoy took pictures that appeared in Phillips's 1945 book, "Livestock of China."
He was especially excited to learn Tolstoy had studied animal husbandry at Iowa State University.
Starting in the mid-1940s, much of Phillips's career was devoted to serving on animal science delegations for the Agriculture Department and the United Nations.
Don Kimmel, 83, a retired U.N. colleague, said Phillips was an ideal delegation member. "He's one of the most highly organized, careful chaps you'll ever meet," Kimmel said. "He was a stickler for perfection."
Phillips remarried in 1983 after the death of his first wife. He and Ellen Herron had known each other socially since the 1960s, and they spent the last 20 years traveling abroad.
The trips were more than typical sightseeing expeditions. The couple saw the birthing of mares in Poland and shared other moments involving animal health.
"It was better than just seeing the museums and things," Herron said.
"Not better, but just as good."