One of the world’s most famous and respected researchers in orthodontics, Professor emerita Birgit Thilander of Gothenburg, Sweden, passed away on July 29, 2016, at age 92. She was actively pursuing her research projects at the University of Gothenburg until her death. She was also working with Lars Bondemark and Krister Bjerklin on a new textbook, Essential orthodontics .
At the end of the 1950s, Bibi, as she was known to many, was in Stockholm, ready to start her postgraduate education in orthodontics. At that time, it was doubtful whether a woman dentist would be accepted. She was not to be deterred and went to Vienna, Austria, for some months to enhance her qualifications. When she returned, she was accepted as a postgraduate resident in Stockholm; she received her degree in orthodontics in 1960. By that time, she also was well into her research studies for a doctoral degree, and she graduated 1 year later. She received her professorship in orthodontics at the University of Gothenburg in 1969.
Professor Thilander wrote more than 200 original articles, several of which earned her prestigious awards. She is also remembered for becoming the first woman professor in odontology, not only at the University of Gothenburg but also in all of Sweden. She had a natural talent for teaching and supervised the doctoral dissertations of 19 students. Professor Thilander was an Honorary Professor at the universities of Helsinki, Finland; Bergen, Norway; and Bogota, Colombia; and she was an honorary member of both the World Federation of Orthodontists and the European Orthodontic Society. Professor Thilander participated in her 50th European Orthodontic Society meeting in June 2016.
We all remember Professor Thilander for her lifelong curiosity and drive to find the answers to her questions about orthodontic treatment. She had an extremely sharp intellect, and the clinical issues were always the basis for her research; the answers to many of her questions, for ethical reasons, were found in animal studies. She was well known for her work on how the tissues react when the teeth are orthodontically moved, and this research emphasis resulted in long-term interdisciplinary cooperation with periodontists. In addition, her research on craniofacial growth and dental implants was remarkable. She followed the facial and jaw growth of 5-year-old children until they were 30 years old. This research was unique in its large sample of subjects with normal anatomy; thus, normal development and growth could be mapped or described. An expert in facial and jaw development, she worked with Per-Ingvar Brånemark, the father of dental titanium implants, and their research resulted in the important knowledge that the head, face, and jaws should have finished growth before insertion of dental titanium implants.
Professor Thilander was preceded in death by her husband, Holger Thilander, and her children, Gisela Thilander and Mats Thilander.
With Professor Thilander’s death, we have lost one of the most significant researchers in orthodontics. We remember with warmth a highly respected colleague and friend.