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Dedication Speech by J. H. Prothero, 1929

James H. Prothero (1862-1929), an 1890 graduate of the Missouri Dental College, was appointed professor of Prosthetics and Metallurgy at the Northwestern University Dental School in 1898.  In 1918 he became interested in radiology and resigned his professorship to return to private dental practice.  By 1920 Prothero was reappointed to the NUDS faculty as professor of Radiology, serving in that capacity until his death on April 8, 1929.   The following speech was delivered during the Dedication Ceremonies of the new building for the Washington University School of Dentistry, February 23, 1929.

James H. Prothero, D.D.S., Sc.D.
Professor Emeritus of Prosthetic Dentistry,
Northwestern University, Dental School

The various speakers of yesterday repeatedly stressed the facts concerning the founding of the Missouri Dental College and enumerated the men concerned therein – so that I have found it necessary to revise my paper lest it become tiresome repetition.

A few facts of somewhat intimate character relative to the pioneers may not prove uninteresting.

Dr. Homer Judd was born and educated in the East.  He eventually came to St. Louis and was one of the principals in the organization of the Missouri Dental College, as well as in establishing the Missouri Dental Journal, of which he was for a time Editor and Contributor.  In some of the earlier numbers of this Journal the following quotations frequently occurred at the beginning of articles:  “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man” or this, “Of all the arts in which the wise excel, Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.”  For a long time I wondered whence the source.  Finally I found both quotations in Frances Bacon’s “NOVUM ORGANUM” published about 1590 – that wonderful work in which the author condemned the old order of philosophizing and advocated the inductive method of reasoning or of proving the truth of a proposition by experiment.  His efforts along these lines gradually revolutionized Philosophy and Science.  One of the first fruits of the new philosophy was immediately apparent in the great impetus given to electrical Science and experimentation by Dr. Wm. Gilbert of Colchester, Eng.  Previous to Gilbert’s work, but little was known of Electricity and Magnetism.  His findings were so varied and interesting that many men in various parts of the world took up the work, each adding something until today electricity is one of the most important and useful sciences in the world.

All this has been related because Dr. Judd, as proven by the foregoing quotations, was a student of the new philosophy.  He realized the necessity for research in the dental field and evidently this subject was discussed by the pioneer group connected with the school in its beginning, and for this Dr. Judd should receive abundant credit.  If this is the fact, and I believe it is, Dr. Judd did a wonderful service to the profession for encouraging research work at a time when such empiricism existed.

Dr. Morrison who was not a member of the first faculty, but who became identified with the school very soon after its organization, had many original ideas.  He was of an inventive turn of mind and was partly, if not wholly responsible, for designing the Morrison chair and engine.  He implanted, replanted and transplanted teeth.  He was skillful in the making and tempering of steel instruments, and in the making of canal broaches from piano wire.  He demonstrated many useful things to the students and his efforts were much appreciated by them.  He suggested the lingual extension of lower dentures for stabilizing them.  He described a gold shell crown in the Missouri Dental Journal, 1869.  This crown, together with a porcelain faced dowel crown described by Dr. Black in the June number of the Missouri Dental Journal, 1869, rendered possible the construction of bridges, which up to that time were scarcely ever attempted.

Dr. Bean patented the shell crown as described by Dr. Morrison about a year later.

Among the men who belonged to this group of workers was Dr. G. V. Black.  The outstanding characteristic of this man was to prove the truth of any proposition he examined.

The following are some of the problems he undertook to solve:

Why does gold foil lose its cohesive property?
How can it be restored?
Studies in the physical properties of dental amalgam alloy in reference to expansion, contraction, edge, strength and flow under stress.
Cavity preparation in which flat seats, and parallel walls were insisted upon instead of the indefinite form usually resorted to.
A method of grafting artificial crowns or roots of teeth – 1869.

He not only devised, but constructed many original delicate and accurate measuring devices for conducting his experiments.

His studies of salivary calculus and the effects of certain kinds of food in increasing its deposits were valuable as well as interesting.  The force exerted by the muscles of mastication was measured by an instrument of his own design called a gnathodynamometer, while a corresponding instrument representing the normal occlusal forms of molar teeth showed the amount of force required to crush beefsteak and various kinds of food.  This instrument was called a fafedynamometer.  These and many other problems of vital importance to the dental profession engaged his time throughout a long and useful life, and humanity as well as the dental profession, have beer immeasurably benefited by his efforts.

Dr. T. L. Gilmer was another alumnus of a later date, but none the less prominent, for his work showed the same desire to arrive at the truth in all cases.  As a consequence he became a splendid diagnostician, a deft and skillful operator and an oral surgeon of international fame.  His enthusiasms in imparting his knowledge to the profession and his students has been an outstanding characteristic of the man, and without exception the 5,000 or more students who have listened to and been benefited by his lectures, revere and admire and love him.

If any living man can instill into the mind of a student a love for the higher and better things of his profession and of life in general, Dr. Gilmer is that man.  On the 19th of this month he passed his 80th birthday, and I am sure it is the wish of his many friends and associates that he be spared for many more years.  And I could go on almost indefinitely relating the outstanding characteristics of many of the former faculty members and alumni, but time will not permit.

Last year at our alumni meeting I gave you another quotation from Bacon: “Old men, dream dreams, young men see visions.”

The present faculty of the dental school, headed by Dr. Bartlett, after years of visioning now see their fondest hopes, in part at least, fulfilled.  We, the Alumni, feel most grateful to them for not only preserving the good name of our Alma Mater under trying circumstances, but also for advancing her standard to a higher plane.  We feel grateful to every member of the faculty for what each one has done toward the accomplishment of this glorious fruition of our dreams, a new and modern home.  And to the Chancellor and Corporation of Washington University who have built this structure on faith, we convey to you our sincerest and most grateful thanks.  We further desire to venture the assurance that the confidence you have reposed in the faculty and Alma Mater will not have been misplaced, but will yield lasting and happy satisfaction to all concerned.


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