Professor Iain Chapple, Head of the School of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham, unveiling the new plaque for dentists Harold Round and Arthur Parrott
The BDA Library and Museum were delighted to be invited to the unveiling of a blue plaque at Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry, for two lesser-known but important, pioneers of jaw injury treatment and prevention during World War One.
The new plaque commemorates Arthur Parrott and Harold Round, both alumni of Birmingham Dental School, both former presidents of the BDA's Central Counties Branch, and two of the first to achieve the BDS Birmingham worked closely alongside the surgeon, Professor Billington at the First Southern General Hospital during the First World War, treating war victims and developing new ways to retain jaw function for those with horrific maxillofacial injuries.
As a result of seeing so many victims with injuries resulting not just from bombs, blasts and bullets but also from collision due to vehicle accidents, primarily in aeroplanes, the two dentists came up with an idea for the first airbag which they called an "air cushion".
They patented their idea in the United States and this February 17th, 1920 patent is the one to which all current airbags look back – although companies that refer to the patent are often unaware that the inventors were English, believing that they came from Birmingham, Alabama!
Round and Parrott: new exhibition
Birmingham Dental Hospital and the School of Dentistry now has a small picture gallery with photographs of both Round and Parrott both sporting typical Edwardian moustaches and some fascinating images of the dental school that they would have known, very different to today's new and modern building.
A small display also showed dental instruments of the time and some pieces belonging to Harold Round.
The large gathering who had arrived for the unveiling were then given a short lecture by Professor Iain Chapple, Head of the School of Dentistry about the history of the Dental Hospital and School, which claims to be the oldest Dental Hospital in the world founded in 1858 as the Birmingham Dental Dispensary.
Then followed by a talk from Professor Jonathan Reinarz the Director of The History of Medicine Unit entitled "Accidental histories: from dental plaque to a blue plaque" covering the growth of the practice of dentistry in the Birmingham area leading to a discussion of Harold Round and Arthur Parrott in particular.
The First Southern General Hospital was the first hospital opened for the wounded of the First World War and opened its doors on the 1 September 1914. Professor William Billington, a surgeon, ran the centre for Jaw and Facial Injuries along with the largely forgotten dentists, Round and Parrott.
Discovering Harold Round's story
Professor Reinarz first came across the name Harold Round when somebody at the Sankey Club, a pathology society, showed him a golf trophy with Harold's name on it, and was asked if he knew anything about him – it turned out that his father, Benjamin John Round was a jeweller who may even have supplied the trophy!
From this grew the research that led ultimately to the blue plaques being unveiled at this event.
Whilst researching the two, a living descendant of Harold Round in Australia contacted Professor Reinarz and has donated a large number of dentally-related items of Harold Round. This great nephew of Harold Round is also a dentist, although now retired, and sent a touching recorded message, which was played just before the unveiling.
We all came away feeling that two remarkable dentists had in some small measure regained their place in history.
Helen Nield, Head of BDA Library and Knowledge Services
The BDA Library is the most comprehensive dental library in Europe. We offer a range of free services to our members including access to both print and online books, journals, ejournals; literature searches by our expert librarians; as well as article packages on a range of key business, career development and clinical topics in dentistry.
The BDA Museum has one of the largest collections of dental heritage in the UK. Spanning the 17th century to the present day, highlights of the collection include dental chairs, drills, oral hygiene products, and the infamous 'Waterloo' teeth. Pop in and see for yourself.