Adam Anton Brunner (1737-1810)

Abhandlung von der Hervorbrechung der


von der Hervorbrechung der Milchzähne

(Discussion of the development of the deciduous
teeth) 1771

Between the absolutism of France and the modernity of Prussia, lay the Austro-Hungarian empire with the Empress Maria Theresa desperately hanging on to her throne as she tried to balance the baroque conservatism of the past and the unsettling Enlightenment of the future. One man the Empress trusted above all others was her personal physician, Dutchman Gerard van Swieten, who was tasked with reforming the empire’s health services infrastructure. Van Swieten knew that in a country that was mostly illiterate and still based in agriculture desperately needed qualified dentists. The Dutchman personally picked Adam Anton Brunner for the job.

Adam Anton Brunner (1737-1810) was professionally trained in Vienna and then became an army surgeon, after which he continued refining his expertise in surgery at some of Austria’s best hospitals including the Brugerspital. At the Brugerspital he became a specialist in oral surgery, and this caught the attention of Van Swieten. Van Swieten recognized Brunner’s talents and sent him on study tours throughout Europe to further his education. Brunner first came to prominence in the literary field in 1765 with his famous work, Einleitung zur nothigen Wissenschaft eins Zahnarzt [Introduction to the Scientific Knowledge Necessary for a Dentist] where he mainly deals with the extraction of teeth. This work helped propel him to fame and he became known as one of the most influential men in dentistry in the late 18th century.

His first book, Einleitung Zur Nöthigen Wissenschaft Eines Zahnarztes or Introduction to the necessary science of a dentist, published in 1766. It is dedicated to understanding and treating dental diseases.

The volume in our collection, Abhandlung von der Hervorbrechung der Milchzähne or Discussion of the development of the deciduous teeth, is his second work released in 1771 where Brunner talks at length about the eruption of milk teeth. Compared to adult teeth, deciduous teeth were seen as mysterious and difficult to understand as some uneducated barber-surgeons believed the nature of milk teeth was random. Following in the footsteps of other celebrated dentists such as J.A. Herbert, Louis Bordet and Pierre Auzebi, Brunner, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, tries to contradict this theory with detailed observation and experimentation as outlined in this work.

He lays out the order in which primary teeth erupt and explains why there is pain and inflammation. Although he is very honest with his remarks admitting that even his own son’s teeth did not arrive in perfect order. He also distinguishes himself on his theory that not all primary teeth have roots and that the formation of the roots is independent of the rest of the tooth itself (Unfortunately this isn’t at all accurate). Brunner is clearly one who wants to push Austrian society into the Enlightenment as he actively admonishes those who believe in superstitions, however, Brunner throughout his treaties he utilizes a compassionate tone, encouraging his readers to try out his theories for themselves, thus illustrating how many thinkers desired their Empire to let go of the past and embrace the knowledge that was the Enlightenment.

Based in part on research done by Johan Bokhari and Paul Xu, class of 2022 as part of their assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2018-2019. Partly based on Hillam, Christine Ed. Dental Practice in Europe at the End of the 18th Century. Vol. 72, Rodopi B.V., 2003, and Guerini, Vincenzo. A History of Dentistry from the Most Ancient Times until the End of the Eighteenth Century. Lea & Febiger, 1909. Edited by Andrew I Spielman

Digital Version