The 100 people most influencing the specialty of orthodontics, 1915-2014

The single most important ingredient that has affected the success and progress of orthodontics over the last 100 years is people. The success of the specialty cannot be explained by the tools and trinkets associated with orthodontics, but it can be explained by the actions and accomplishments of the people who have helped to advance it.

Some people, as innovative clinicians, brought inert blobs of plastic and wire to life, fabricating appliances and applying them in patients. They enjoyed their successes and reflected on their shortcomings through critical evaluations, always with a goal of improving orthodontic ministrations, so that at the end of treatment there would be a corrected malocclusion, enhanced facial esthetics, and a bright smile of appreciation. They were the pioneers, the adventurers, and the brave in their actions and results. Best of all, they shared through textbooks, articles, and presentations.

Other people, as teachers, passed along what was known, what was not known, and what was dreamed. They sought out the “tall timber” from the dental schools and invited them to learn orthodontics. They taught, they trained, they molded, and they encouraged, and by doing so they helped direct the professional lives of their graduates. By their nature, teachers share, and their influence remains long after they are gone.

Still others, as thinkers, inventors, and scientists, explored areas of concern or those that were uncharted. They worked with ideas that could be considered and tested. Ideas that proved to be good would be written up and published, considered again, and then used to formulate more research. Ideas without merit would be reported and then discarded, sometimes contrary to the inherited and strongly held beliefs of others. Through determined inquiry and dissemination, these people also shared their work and findings with others; they made us look at orthodontics in new and different ways.

Of course, we cannot have true progress unless some people assume leadership roles. Through their inspiration, courage, and charisma, leaders chart directions often with a focused mind and a strong hand. They guide us where they think we need to go, and as the future unfolds, they are judged to be correct in that guidance. Some become icons.

Finally, there are a few who, although not orthodontists, have influenced orthodontics by the nature of their advancements in related clinical care, their prowess in teaching and presentation, their accomplishments in research that is relevant to orthodontics, and their leadership.

To choose the people to honor, a list of nominees was compiled from many sources: a listing of all the authors who published in the AJO-DO over the past 100 years, numerous journal articles written about the history of orthodontics (notably those by Bernhard Weinberger, Norman Wahl, and Milton Asbell), names suggested by the judges, and several source books. This process resulted in approximately 250 nominations.

Subsequently, 16 judges participated by casting 100 votes each. The following served as judges: James L. Ackerman, Sheldon Baumrind, Rolf G. Behrents, Charles J. Burstone, G. Frans Currier, Robert J. Isaacson, Lysle E. Johnston, Jr, James A. McNamara, Jr, Sheldon Peck, William R. Proffit, David L. Turpin, James L. Vaden, Robert L. Vanarsdall, Jr, Norman Wahl, Wayne G. Watson, and Larry W. White.

These judges were selected because of their extensive knowledge of orthodontics and their years of experience in the specialty (in fact, I was the youngest judge). A few restrictions were applied to those nominated and selected. First, there was a window of time to be considered: all nominees had to be living sometime between January 1, 1915, and December 31, 2014. They needed to be deceased before January 1, 2015, to prevent the complication of singling out a “living legend,” of which there are many.

Of course, this window of time (January 1, 1915, to December 31, 2014) is harsh at its beginning and its end, since a few notable people who lived before or after are not included. Thus, William Gibson Arlington Bonwill, Christophe-François Delabarre, John Nutting Farrar, John Hunter, Pierre Fauchard, Norman Kingsley, Pierre-Joachim Lefoulon, Jean Melchior Alexis Schange, Robert Bunon, and many others who were influential before 1915 were not selected for the final list. On the other end of that time, some very influential people, such as Charles J. Burstone (one of the judges), were not selected for the listing because they were still living as of December 31, 2014.

Because of these notable people… once the selection process was completed, there were a pause and a reflection, and I wished that the original task had been to select the 100 people of all time who most influenced the specialty of orthodontics. Well, however imperfect or incomplete, or argued, the final list of 100 was constructed, along with a list of 60 people who received votes and thus deserved honorable mention.

I must also add that 20 people on the list were chosen unanimously by the judges, and there was remarkable consistency across the judges for more than half of the 100 listed. For all persons in either list, it was clear that “influence” is hard to measure, but it is possible to identify people whose ideas, examples, talents, and discoveries transformed the world of orthodontics over the past century.

For all the people listed, we hope we have honored them appropriately and afforded them the respect that they deserve.

Finally, in compiling such a list, it is expected and customary to single out one person who was the most influential of all. There can be no serious debate about this. It can only be Edward Hartley Angle. He was and is a symbol of everything that we value and admire. His time will be remembered for its definition and beginnings in organization, education, clinical advancement, and appreciation of the value of science. So, for the time from January 1, 1915, to December 31, 2014, the first century of the AJO-DO , Edward Angle is the Person of the Century.

I hope you enjoy our special section honoring some of the heroes of orthodontics.

Rolf G. Behrents

These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

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Apr 6, 2017 | Posted by in Orthodontics | Comments Off on The 100 people most influencing the specialty of orthodontics, 1915-2014
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