17 Oct 8 Famous Dentists in History
Dentistry is a noble profession but it won’t exactly earn you a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame…or will it? In today’s blog, we’ll introduce eight famous dentists who made history. We’ll also take a look at a couple of famous fictional dentists from recent pop culture history.
Famous Dentists in History
American gunslinger, gambler and Wyatt Earp’s best friend was also a dentist when he wasn’t causing trouble at the OK Corral. He graduated from the Pennsylvania School of Dental Surgery at age 21, a background that would later earn him the nickname “Doc.” He stopped practicing dentistry about 5-6 years later.
Although Revere never actually earned a dental degree, he was an apprentice of English dental surgeon, Dr. John Baker, who taught him how to make and fit patients with artificial teeth. Before his famous ride in 1775, Revere practiced dentistry in Boston after he opened a practice sometime in the 1760s. A noted patient of Revere’s was Dr. Joseph Warren, the famed American physician who sent Revere and William Dawes on their famous ride to warn colonists that the British were indeed coming to their town.
It’s a bit ironic that the founder of Welch’s grape juice was also a dentist. Thomas Bramwell Welch was the first to use pasteurization to make unfermented wine, a practice he pursued to provide nonalcoholic grape juice to members of the Wesleyan Methodist congregation, who didn’t believe in using fermented wine for the sacrament. Welch was first a Methodist minister who was also known for assisting escaped slaves in the Underground Railroad before his voice began to fail him, leading Welch to pursue a new career path. He became a physician after attending New York Central Medical College in Syracuse before switching careers again to become a dentist. Two of Welch’s seven children, Charles and Emma, would follow in their father’s footsteps with careers in dentistry.
Perhaps Pfeffer’s name doesn’t stand out right away, but if you’ve read The Diary of Anne Frank, you may recognize his true name or his alias, Albert Dussell. Pfeffer was one of eight Jewish refugees hiding in the Secret Annex along with Anne and her family. Before Nazi Germany forced him into hiding, Fitz Pfeffer was a dentist in Berlin and Amsterdam. Pfeffer was forced to share a room with the young Anne Frank which raised tensions between the two refugees, and Pfeffer was not portrayed in the best light in Frank’s diary, a factor that later caused division between Otto Frank, the surviving member of the Frank family, and Pfeffer’s wife and son. Pfeffer died in a Nazi concentration camp from enterocolitis in December 1944, just a few short months after his arrest.
Known as the Father of Adult Westerns, Zane Grey practiced as a dentist before writing novels like Riders of the Purple Sage and The Lone Star Ranger. Grey’s family history is greatly intertwined with American history. His mother’s ancestor, Robert Zane, was a Quaker immigrant who came to the North American colonies in 1673. Another maternal ancestor, Ebenezer Zane, was an American patriot who fought in the Revolutionary War.
Jim Lonborg played major league baseball for fifteen years and won the Cy Young Award in 1967. After an off-season skiing incident ended his baseball career, Lonborg pursued a different path, earning his degree in dentistry from Tufts Dental School in 1983. He’s still practicing to this day.
Not to be confused with the Earl of Leicester who (allegedly) captured the heart of Queen Elizabeth I of England, this Robert Dudley was a dentist who later traded in his dental drill for an acting career that would span over nearly four decades and 115 films, including The Mysterious Island in 1929.
Fans of shows like Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Beverley Hillbillies will remember Buchanan for his acting and singing chops. Long before he kicked off an acting career in 1939, Buchanan was a dentist who owned a practice with his, Mildred, who later took over the practice once Buchanan’s film career took off.