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“Valedictory Address delivered at the First Commencement of the Missouri Dental College” by Homer Judd, 1867

Homer Judd

Dr. Homer Judd (1820-1890) received his medical training at the Berkshire Medical College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  As was the custom of the time, he studied dentistry with a practicing dentist, and then commenced practicing dentistry, settling in Warsaw, Illinois in 1850.  Judd moved to St. Louis in 1861, establishing a successful practice and becoming a founder of the Missouri State Dental Association and the Missouri Dental College.  Judd served as the first dean of the Missouri Dental College (1866-1874).

Homer Judd

by Homer Judd, M.D., D.D.S.

History has dealt kindly by the arts and sciences by throwing around their infancy a veil of mystery.  It has taken from the hand of fable and tradition a few scattered elements of fancy and woven them into semblances of august, pleasing, or imposing realities.  Æsculapius, represented as the fountain head of medical science, presents to the mind of the inquirer an object, august and full of interest.  The myths that have been appropriated by the legal historian, which describe the origin and growth of legal codes when individuals first formed themselves into clans, and these spread into tribes, and widened into nations, were sufficiently probable to accomplish the designs of the historic writer by clothing these earliest records with the pleasing garments of simplicity.  The historian, so far as theological science is concerned, has no need of mythical personifications to gild the cradle of its infancy, for revelation has appropriated to itself the task of illuminating these prehistoric mysteries, and ushers in its origin with the most imposing solemnities.  Those who pride themselves upon the antiquity, of the art or science to which they, have dedicated their lives are apt to deceive themselves with the idea that to be antique is to be ennobled, and that antiquity and nobility are synonymous terms; but it is highly probable that a correct history of the origin of medical, legal, or theological investigations would disabuse their minds of so flattering an illusion.  The great truths of science have, as a general thing, not come down to us from these dark periods in the world’s history.  Its broad foundations were not laid in a single day, and a structure reared thereon sufficiently imposing to immortalize its founders and ennoble all of its succeeding votaries; but the profound darkness of the olden time has been broken in upon and dispersed little by little, a single ray of light first forcing its way through, the surrounding gloom, and, thus making way for another, and another, until these truths of science have become manifest through the struggling energies of ages.  Fortunately for professional men, the respectability of an art or science at this age of the world does not rest upon the mythic glories of their earlier days; for were this the case, a few rays of light thrown upon those dark pages of their history might yet drag them from their honored pedestals, and place them side by side with arts and callings, which though now less esteemed, can boast of as high an antiquity and a no more plebeian origin than their own.  Surgery was for a long time considered as belonging to the province of the general practitioner of medicine, and many surgical operations of great importance are recorded that were performed by the distinguished physicians of the Hippocratic and Galenic eras.  This condition of things was not disturbed until about the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the practice of physic fell for the most part into the hands of the ecclesiastics of the Roman Church, who were forbidden by the canons of their church to draw blood.  To pursue the practice of surgery, and at the same time to conform to their canonical laws being impossible, the practice was almost entirely abandoned by the only class of men who were in any degree fitted for the performance of surgical operations.  At this time, and indeed before this period, the barbers had occasionally performed minor surgical operations, and being the only class who made any pretensions to surgical knowledge, they easily appropriated to themselves nearly the entire surgical practice, so that barber and surgeon soon became synonymous terms, and finally the title of barber-surgeon was appropriated by this illiterate, mongrel profession.  The position which these surgical practitioners occupied in society at this time may be inferred from the fact, that it was unlawful for any artisan to take a young man as an apprentice without his first making oath that he belonged to a respectable family, and particularly to one in which there were neither barbers, bath keepers, nor butchers.  During the thirteenth century, a few of the clerical practitioners ventured to perform some surgical operations, and the number gradually increased in the fourteenth century in spite of the prohibitions of their canonical laws; but these practitioners were discountenanced by the great body of the profession, who had by this time learned to look down upon the practice of surgery, regarding it as an ignoble art.  These ecclesiastical surgeons, therefore, occupied at this time an intermediate position, being placed between the barber-surgeons on the one hand, and the medical fraternity on the other.  They refused to be associated with the former, and were not recognized as honorable practitioners by the latter, and in consequence, were excluded from the honors and emoluments that were extended to the medical profession.  A few of this class finally formed a collegiate association among themselves, at St. Come, in France, for the purpose of facilitating the study of surgery, and after many struggles and vicissitudes, with the barber-surgeons on the one hand, and the medical fraternity on the other, they were finally allowed the privilege of entering themselves as scholars in the University of Medicine, in France, and were acknowledged from that time as members of the medical profession.  This occurred about the beginning of the sixteenth century, and up to this time the history of general surgery was the history of dentistry; for although the dim records of an antiquity, coeval with the youth of Memphis and the maturity of Thebes, hint at special physicians for the teeth, and the poets who sung whilst Troy was battling with the Grecian hosts speak of artificial dental substitutes, still, nothing has come down to us in these mythic records sufficiently definite to warrant the belief, that the study of dentistry had ever been pursued apart from the study of general surgery.  Early in the sixteenth century, Ambrose Paré wrote his celebrated treatise upon the teeth, which had the effect of directing the attention of medical men to these important organs.  But few advances were made, however, in this direction until the seventeenth century, when dentistry began to assume the proportions and characteristics of a separate branch of medical science.  During this century appeared the celebrated treatises of Bichat and John Hunter, who seemed to fully appreciate the sympathies and connections of the teeth with the entire framework of man.  During the eighteenth century, the operative and mechanical departments were steadily improving, but it remained for the active and energetic workers of the present century to collect and arrange the facts that had been brought out by individual enterprise in such manner as to form a connected system.  At this time theorists, operators, and experimenters arose in quick succession, among whom, as yet, the French led the way in advance of all competitors.  But the English soon entered the arena and carried on a spirited contest for the supremacy.  The first dentist upon this continent was probably LeMair, who came over from France, and shortly afterwards Whitlock arrived from England; the one commencing practice in New York, the other in Philadelphia, during the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

JOHN GREENWOOD was the first native American dentist who commenced practicing in New York, in 1788.  The numbers of the profession increased rapidly in this country, and in 1839 was issued the first number of the American Journal and Library of Dental Science, which being conducted with energy and ability, seemed to rouse into action the energies of the whole dental fraternity; and a necessary consequence of this activity in the members of the profession was the formation of the design of a dental college, where the student of dentistry might command all the advantages whilst fitting himself for the practice of his specialty that the surgeon or the general practitioner enjoyed in the colleges of medicine or surgery.  The conception of the design was followed in 1840 by the execution of it, and under a charter of the state of Maryland, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was brought into existence, and took its stand among the literary and scientific institutions of the land, as the first regularly organized dental college the world had ever known.  Dentists will ever look back with interest upon this eventful epoch, in which dental art burst its chrysalid form and stood revealed a living science.  It was not born surrounded by the mysticism, the superstition, and the darkness of the world’s early history, but came into existence in the fullness of the mid-day light of the nineteenth century.  Untrammeled by the weight of hoary theories, and unfettered by the prejudices engendered by acrimonious disputations, it was fitted to appropriate to its own use whatever of art or science it found ready developed to minister to its necessities, and without stopping to mingle with the disputants of opposing dogmas, set itself vigorously to work in the direction of scientific progress.  Other colleges of dentistry, have been instituted.  Associations of dentists have been formed for mutual improvement, both in the old and new world, and some of the most interesting histological and physiological questions of modern times have been cleared up by the labors of dental investigators.  If Clopton Havers has succeeded in engraving his name upon every vascular canal in the osseous structures of the animal creation, by writing a description of the Haversian systems, Tomes is entitled to as undying a distinction for his successful investigations upon the dental tubuli, establishing their tubularity, making out their contents, and demonstrating their physiological actions and their pathological anatomy.  It is not to the investigation of the teeth alone that Tomes has devoted his attention, but as a writer upon general histology he stands today second to no living man, as the constant reference to his works by other writers on histology abundantly demonstrate.  That there may be a still more rapid advancement in scientific attainments in the profession arises the necessity, for a more extended course of dental studies, and a more intimate knowledge of the fundamental principles of medicine, that all the sympathies, and physiological and pathological connections of the different organs of this wondrous work of nature may be fully appreciated and understood.  The attention can scarcely dwell for a moment upon this proposition without the grand truth forcing itself upon the mind, that to be able to treat successfully and safely the various pathological conditions of the teeth and oral cavity requires the same amount of general knowledge of medicine that is necessary for the success of the oculist, the aurist, the surgeon, or the practitioner of general medicine.  There is no necessity for argument to prove this proposition, for the common sense of any intelligent community can not fail to perceive its axiomatic character as soon as the proposition is fairly and fully stated.  In view of these facts, the practitioners of the West conceived the idea of establishing an institution of learning for dental students, where the fundamental principles of medical science should be recognized to the fullest extent, as the only proper foundation for a knowledge of scientific dentistry.  As anatomy, physiology, materia medica, and chemistry were justly considered as the proper foundation of medicine, it only remained to determine the best method of enabling students to attain a knowledge of these branches, as well as to provide a thorough course of instruction in all of the practical details of the art.  If it should be conceded that a knowledge of Latin or Greek was one of the requisites of a respectable medical education, no one would suppose it to be necessary to establish a chair of languages in every medical institution; because our numerous literary institutions present every advantage that could be desired to those students who desire to make themselves masters of these languages, and at these institutions would undoubtedly be the proper place to attain this part of their education.

If we should concede, again, that a knowledge of English grammar was desirable for the student of medicine, or if it were deemed necessary to discipline the mind by a course of instruction in geometry or mental philosophy, it would scarcely be thought necessary to establish separate chairs in all of our medical colleges to teach these branches, however important it might be that this knowledge should form a part of the education of medical men.  Our common schools, seminaries, and literary colleges present all the advantages that experience, learning, and devotion to the cause have been able to devise for imparting a knowledge of these branches, and these are undoubtedly the proper institutions to impart this instruction.  If, then, it be necessary for dental students to acquire a knowledge of the fundamental principles of medicine, it is manifestly proper that they should receive this necessary instruction in those honored seats of learning where these studies have been taught for centuries, and which it is universally admitted afford greater facilities for this kind of instruction than can be elsewhere enjoyed.  The proper place for instruction in a medical college to commence is where the course necessarily diverges from that pursued in acquiring a general literary education, and the proper place for the special functions of the dental instructor to begin is when the specialty diverges from the course of general medicine, and enters upon the theoretical and practical details of the science.  To take upon itself more than this would subject the institution to the same burdens that a medical college would be subjected to if it should attempt to take upon itself the task of teaching every branch of learning that was essential or useful to the well-informed medical practitioner.  The experience of the few dental colleges which have existed for any considerable length of time fully sustains, in my judgment, the foregoing theory.  By attempting to teach those branches that can much better be taught in the medical colleges of the country, they have laid a burden upon themselves which nothing but the indomitable energy and perseverance of individual enterprise has enabled them to sustain, and the fact, that is every where patent, that their students have not as a general thing, been as proficient in these medical branches as the students of medicine who have spent the same time upon these studies in medical colleges, furnishes but poor encouragement for persisting in a mode of instruction that has to a great extent failed to accomplish the desired results.  Recognizing these facts, and fully aware of the defects that had hitherto attached to dental teaching, the founders of the Missouri Dental College determined that this opprobrium chirurgiæ dentium should no longer have cause to exist.  This has been effectually accomplished, so far as the organization of this institution is concerned, by an arrangement effected with the St. Louis Medical College, through which the medical and dental student pursues these common branches side by side, the same advantages being extended to the one as to the other, and the same proficiency required of the one as of the other, that they may be entitled to the honors of their respective institutions.  Taking into consideration the history of the dental art, the obstacles that it has overcome, and the disadvantages under which it has labored, it has accomplished much more in the way of progress than could have been reasonably expected in so short a time.  In the, brief period since it first sprung into existence as a distinct branch of medicine, six dental colleges have already been established in the United States, whilst no other medical specialty can boast of a single institution of learning dedicated to its own use, and supported and fostered by the enterprise, energy, and progressive spirit of its own members.  If the infancy of dentistry was somewhat clouded by ignorance, its youth has already done much to dispel the darkness that brooded over it, and all of the energies of the profession are today directed to the accomplishment of the grand desideratum of placing it, so far as intelligence, literary acquirements, and scientific attainments are concerned, upon an equality with the other learned professions of the land.  To the accomplishment of this end other influences are at work, which are no less potent than the determination, devotion, and energy of the members of the profession themselves, and chief among these is the imperative demand which is constantly being made by educated, enlightened, and refined communities for the greatest possible degree of excellence in dental operations.  Persons in every grade of society desire immunity from pain and suffering, and in the most common and painful of all the maladies that afflict mankind they all look to the dentist for relief.  The lower classes have, as a general thing, been willing to sacrifice the offending members for the sake of present ease, though their whole after lives were subjected to inconvenience for the loss.  The more intelligent part of the community have submitted to these losses of important organs with greater reluctance, which was increased by their appreciation of the inconveniences thereby entailed upon them for, life, and the danger incurred by the deleterious influences exerted thereby upon the general health, and perhaps more still influenced by the sad reflection that one of the organs that had hitherto formed a part of themselves, and had to this time performed the function assigned it by the Great Designer, had been lost to them forever.  All improvements in dental practice, which have looked to a more extended conservation of dental organs, are being more and more appreciated, and the immense advance made by the profession in the last few years towards a universal conservation has already been the source of many blessings, and is destined hereafter to exert no feeble influence in promoting and preserving the general health of communities, and thereby contributing to the general weal of man.  But these strictly utilitarian considerations are not the only ones that are brought to bear to stimulate to new exertions in this direction.  The human face is an index of marvelous accuracy, which marks upon its surface various phases of thought and feeling, and is lighted up or clouded by every sensational emotion.  Physical changes, in the way principally of muscular contractions, engendered by these emotional causes, give rise to an ever-changing variety of facial expression, and in these expressions exist, to a very great extent, those mystic influences which, though they can not be described in words, we are all constrained to feel.  Here rests the source of a wondrous power; a power that has lighted up wars and dictated terms of peace; a power that has controlled emperors and led captive kings; a power that has overturned states and annihilated empires.  These perfect models of the “Great Artist” are unfortunately liable to the ravages of disease, and if abandoned to its destructive power, one after another of their attractive features disappears, and what was once an object of loveliness and admiration is transformed and deformed, until only a wreck remains, bereft of its regal power, and despoiled of its queenly beauty.

These destructive changes are to a great extent due to diseases of the organs of the oral cavity, and a thousand hands are outstretched and a thousand voices raised, calling upon the dental profession to preserve these priceless forms and features from the ravages of these remorseless maladies.  Can there be more powerful incentives to energetic and continued effort directed to improvement in dental practice?  From these considerations, it will not be difficult to divine the future of the dental art.  The demands of its patrons will be fully met.  Whatever science and art combined can do will be done, and the importance and usefulness of the profession will be universally acknowledged.

To you, gentlemen, as alumni of the Missouri Dental College, we look with confidence for noble efforts in this behalf, and from our knowledge of your devotion to the cause of science, your untiring energy and perseverance, and your proficiency in all the acquirements that go to make up the dental investigator and practitioner, we feel that our confidence has not been misplaced.


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