Dr. Chapin A. Harris


Dr. Chapin A. Harris

Baltimore, Maryland — 1806-1860

Father of American Dental Science and Pioneer of Dental Journal

Dr. Harris was born on May 6th 1806 at Pompey, New York. At the age of seventeen, he moved to Madison, Ohio, joined his brothers, James and John, a physician and began the study of medicine. In 1824, on passing the Ohio Board of Medical Censors, he began practicing medicine and surgery in Greenfield, Ohio. In 1828, Dr. Harris turned to dentistry, and by 1833 was a student of Dr. Hayden located in Baltimore. Licensed by the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, Harris conducted an itinerant dental practice throughout the South. In 1839, he was instrumental in establishing the world’s first dental journal, the American Journal of Dental Science, published at Baltimore.

He was its chief editor and publisher until his death in 1860, uniquely responsible for the journal that accomplished so much to raise dentistry to the status of a recognized profession.

Dr. Harris was the cofounder, with Dr. Hayden, of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the world’s first dental school, chartered in 1840. He was the school’s first dean and professor of practical dentistry. After Hayden’s death in 1844, he became the school’s second president.

In 1839 , Dr. Harris published The Dental Art: A Practical Treatise on Dental Surgery. A second edition in 1845 was titled, The Principles and Practice of Dental Surgery. Eleven editions followed, the last in 1896; it was the most useful dental textbook of the nineteenth century. 1840 , Dr. Harris was one of the organizers of the American Society of Dental Surgeons, the first national dental organization. He was its first corresponding secretary and its president in 1844. After the disruption of the society, he was one of the foremost organizers of its successor, the American Dental Convention, serving as its president in 1856-57. In 1849, Dr. Harris published his second book, Dictionary of Dental Science, so fitting it appeared in five editions, the last in 1898. Dr. Harris, trained in medicine, received the D.D.S. degree through membership in the American Society of Dental Surgeons. Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois, conferred an A.M. degree on him in 1842. In 854, he received an honorary D.D.S. degree from the Philadelphia Dental College. Dr. Harris, the father of American dental science and pioneer of dental journalism, died on September 29, 1860 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Baltimore. The uncommonly dedicated lives and contributions of Hayden and Harris exemplify the Longfellow quote, “Great men stand like solitary towers in the City of God.”

The Academy is privileged and honored to induct Dr. Chapin A. Harris into the PFA International Hall of Fame of Dentistry.