Charles C. Bass

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Charles Cassedy Bass (1875–1975) was a medical doctor and researcher on tropical medicine with significant contributions to understanding malaria, hookworm, and other diseases.[1] Later Bass studied the relationship between dental health and the general well-being. Bass articulated and promoted the "Bass Technique of Toothbrushing" and developed improved means of flossing teeth, for which some refer to Bass as "The Father of Preventive Dentistry".[2] He subsequently became a university administrator, serving as dean of the Tulane University School of Medicine, from 1922 to 1940.[3] Photographs of Bass are available for on-line viewing.[3]

Contributions to tropical medicine[edit]

In 1911, Bass discovered an in vitro method of culturing the plasmodium organism responsible for malaria, a breakthrough in finding cures for the disease.[1] He applied this method during a 1912 series of investigations into the cause of malaria during the Panama Canal project, a part of the efforts of Colonel William C. Gorgas to provide safe and hygienic conditions in the project.[4]

Around the same time, he succeeded in isolating the ova of the uncinaria, or hookworm, by isolating them in pure form from intestinal excreta. Additionally he contributed to the understanding of the vitamin diseases of beriberi and pellagra, being the first to recognize this disease in Louisiana. He simplified methods of diagnosing typhus, and discovered the cause and means of transmission of the poultry disease Ulcerative Enteritis.[1] Much of Bass's early work in tropical medicine was conducted in collaboration with fellow Tulane researcher Foster Johns.[5]

Contributions to dentistry and oral health[edit]

Beginning in 1914, Bass commenced his investigations on the understanding of Entamoeba gingivalis (Endameba buccalis) in the microbiological flora of the mouth, beginning his interest in oral health. However, it was only upon his 1940 retirement from university administrative posts that he began intensive research on dental health, a period in which he made extensive use of his experience in parasitology and microbiology. Bass focused on the understanding and prevention of the principle diseases of the mouth, particularly caries and periodontoclasia. Bass carried out extensive investigation and experimentation to determine the best means of using toothbrushes and dental floss for effective prevention of the important diseases of the mouth.[6] Bass widely promoted means of improved oral hygiene, purposefully avoiding his own personal profit in the interest of public health.[7]

A book published describing Bass's contributions to dental hygiene.[8] Another New Orleanian Levi Spear Parmley is the inventor of the original dental floss.[9] Bass developed an improved material for floss.[7]


Bass was dean of the Tulane University School of Medicine from 1922 to 1940, a period of rapid expansion of the medical school and its facilities. This included the 1930 construction of new Hutchinson Clinics of medicine.[10] His tenure included a tumultuous interaction with the administration of then Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long over the medical school's service of Charity Hospital (New Orleans). Bass eventually prevailed and established a teaching service at this large inner-city hospital.[11]

Bass served as president of the Southern Medical Association in 1926.

Personal life[edit]

Bass was born on his family's pecan plantation in Carley, Mississippi, in Marion County, on January 29, 1875.[1] He graduated from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1899 and initially practiced medicine in rural MIssissippi. He developed a particular interest in Tropical Medicine and so worked with Dr. Charles E. Simon[12] of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1904, becoming a researcher in Tropical Medicine.[1] He joined the faculty of Tulane University School of Medicine in 1905, rising through the academic ranks to finally become dean. Bass died in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 29, 1975.

Two of his sisters were physicians, Mary Elizabeth Bass and Cora Bass.[3] Mary Elizabeth Bass also had a career in academic medicine, in pathology, and was the recipient of honors for her pioneering work in support of women's careers in medicine.[13]

Bronze doors commemorating Charles C. Bass were dedicated in Tulane University's Rudolph Matas Library in 1981.[3] Among Bass's awards was a gold medal by the National Institute of Social Sciences for his contributions to the welfare of humankind.[1] He was the 1967 recipient of an award from the Society for Preservation of Oral Health.[7]

Selected publication list[edit]

  • "Habitat of Endameba buccalis in Lessions of Periodontoclasia", Proc. Soc. Exp. Bio. I Med. 66:9, 1947.
  • "The Optimum Characteristics of Toothbrushes for Personal Oral Hygiene", Dent. Items. Int. 70:697, 1948.
  • "The Optimum Characteristics of Dental Floss for Personal Oral Hygiene", Dent. Items. Int. 70:921, 1948.
  • "Personal Oral Hygiene for Children", Arch. Pediatrics 72:295, 1955.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Rudolph Matas, New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. 92, April 1940.
  2. ^ The History of Dental Hygiene.
  3. ^ a b c d Dean C.C. Bass, Rudolph Matas Library, Tulane University, accessed February 15, 2012.
  4. ^ International Congress of Hygiene and Demography, Washington, DC, September 23–28, 1912.
  5. ^ Foster M. Johns at
  6. ^ "Collected Papers Relative to Dental Health", Charles C. Bass, The Bulletin of the Tulane University Medical Faculty, 22(2) 1963.
  7. ^ a b c Dudley Lynch, New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 4, 1972.
  8. ^ Wayne L. Lott and Steve Brawner, Dr. Charles Bass and the Bass Method, Xlibris, 2004, ISBN 1-4134-6911-6.
  9. ^ M. Sanoudas, A.G. Christen, Journal of the History of Dentistry, 1999 Mar;47(1) 3-6.
  10. ^ John Duffy, The Tulane University Medical Center: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Medical Education, Louisiana State University Press, 1984.
  11. ^ John E. Salvaggio, New Orleans' Charity Hospital: A Story of Physicians, Politics, and Poverty, Louisiana State University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-8071-1613-0, pp. 105-118.
  12. ^ Dr. Charles E. Simon Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, accessed February 19, 2012.
  13. ^ Bass Special Collection, Rudolph Matas Library, Tulane University, special collection, accessed February 16, 2012.

External links[edit]