John Smith (dentist)

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The grave of John Smith, Warriston Cemetery

John Smith FRSE PRCSEd (1825–1910) was a Scottish dentist, philanthropist and pioneering educator. The founder of the Edinburgh school of dentistry,[1] he served as president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (1883) and president of the British Dental Association.[2]


Smith was born in Edinburgh, the son of dental surgeon John Smith. His family lived at 30 Frederick Street in the New Town.[3]

He was educated at the Edinburgh Institution, Edinburgh University (MD 1847) and the Royal College of Surgeons. He conducted postgraduate studies in London and Paris, making drawings of gunshot and sabre wounds.[2] He took over his father's dental practice in 1851, and married Elizabeth Marjory Peters in 1853.

Smith started teaching the first regular courses on dental physiology and diseases in Scotland, in 1856.[2] He was surgeon dentist to the Royal Public Dispensary. He co-founded the Hospital for Sick Children in 1859. Recognising the need for improved training, he founded, together with Francis Brodie Imlach and others, the Edinburgh Dental Dispensary in 1860. Smith wrote the Handbook of Dental Anatomy and Surgery (1864).

In 1871 Smith was appointed Surgeon Dentist to Queen Victoria,[2] and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, upon the nomination of John Hutton Balfour.

The Dispensary grew into the Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School by 1879.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate (LLD) by Edinburgh University in 1884.[4]

Smith was also a moderately successful playwright. He was a senior elder in St Andrews Parish Church in Edinburgh.

In his final years he lived at 11 Wemyss Place, a fine Georgian house in Edinburgh's New Town.[5]

He died on 15 April 1910. He is buried on the edge of the path which runs over the central vaults in Warriston Cemetery.


  1. ^ British Dental Journal 1910; 31: 388-93 Archived 12 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d Smith, John. "Papers of John Smith" (PDF). Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Library & Archive. Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1825-26
  4. ^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF). II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1909-10