Dr. James Branson Willmott

2001 Inductee

Dr. James Branson Willmott

Toronto, Ontario Canada — 1837-1915
Dr. Willmott’s singular importance to the profession of dentistry in Ontario Canada was his visionary development of dental education. Within his lifetime he forged and elevated the unregulated itinerant dental tradesman of the 1860s to a Canadian Dental Professional status of recognized academic standing and international reputation by 1915. Willmott provided the solid foundation in which the profession evolved in Canada.

Willmott took an active interest in town affairs and held many positions of trust as a young itinerant dentist in Milton. The early experience was invaluable, as Willmott was a driving force in passing the Act of Incorporation of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario , March 4th 1868, which was the first efficient Dental Act in the world.

Willmott left Milton in 1870-71 to attend the Philadelphia Dental College, graduating at the head of his class with the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery, Doctoral degrees in dental surgery were not conferred in Canada until the School of Dentistry of the R.C.D.S. of Ontario ,established in 1875, affiliated with the University of Toronto in 1888. Upon graduation, Willmott moved his office to Toronto. Willmott was unswervingly committed to the highest ideals of life and conduct. He was a man of high moral character and a sturdy standard of his church an his profession. He possessed clear vision, acute intuition, organizing genus and executive ability of the highest order. A most important event to take place during the period 1870-1890 was the establishment of the School of Dentistry in 1875. From the beginning, Co-founder Willmott was head of the school until his death in 1915.

The proud affiliation of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons in 1888 with the University of Toronto was a notable event in the development of the profession. Willmott worked continuously towards this goal for 20 years and is credited with its attainment.

For 40 years Willmott was a leader in all phase of Ontario dentistry and commanded respect internationally. He recognized the field of dental education as the professional’s cornerstone. This was his greatest contribution. For his work, the University of Toronto conferred the Honorary Doctor of Laws, 1914, upon Dr. Willmott, the first Canadian dentist so honored.

Dr. Willmott’s greatest service arose from his function as a teacher and exemplar. His student, the noted Charles Nelson Johnson 1881, Dean at Chicago, said of Willmott, ” He meant more to Canadian Dentistry during the days of its organization, than will ever be computed. I do not know where in any land the profession … of the land owed more to a single individual than the Profession of Canada owed to Dr. Willmott. The name of Dr. Willmott will always be indissolubly linked with the science of moral and the theory of integrity.”

Sir William Mulock said of Willmott, ” I venture to say that each of your membership will say , as Hamlet did, “taking him all in all you will never see his like again”.

Dean Willmott was the Nestor and Dean of the Dental Profession in the Dominion of Canada. The name of Willmott and Ontario Dentistry are synonymous for a half a century. He was one of the ablest men that Canada has known in the Dental Profession and his name is handed down from one generation to another with a great deal of pride.

It is a honor to present the first distinguished Canadian dentist for induction into the PFA International Hall of Fame of Dentistry.