Joseph Fox (1775-1816)
The History and Treatment of the Diseases of the Teeth and Gums, and the Alveolar Processes, With the Operations Which They Respectively Require
Dr. Joseph Fox was a pioneer in his field. He was born on November 7, 1775, in London, in a family of a dentist. He received his medical training at Guy’s Hospital in 1794 and was trained as a dentist by his father. Dr. Fox is best known for a series of lectures he gave to medical students at London’s Guy’s Hospital in 1779, one of the first for the field, and later became the basis for his books. Dr. Fox was highly respected amongst his peers, students, and the public alike. Up until his untimely death in 1816 at age of 40, Dr. Fox continued with his work in dentistry, education, and philanthropy.
The books based on Dr. Fox’s lectures at Guy’s Hospital were The Natural History and Diseases of the Human Teeth (1803) and The History and Treatment of the Diseases of the Teeth (1806). Both works are regarded as some of the first most important dental texts in the English Language. These books focused on dental pathology, anatomy, and operative and surgical procedures. Dr. Fox was a supporter of improving and maintaining the integrity of the dental profession. He influenced the thinking of the founders of the first dental school, Chapin Harris and Horace Hayden. Hi advocated that dentistry must have a science background and was part of medicine.
In the book, The History and Treatment of the diseases of the Teeth and Gums, and the
Alveolar Processes, With the Operations Which They Respectively Require, Dr. Joseph Fox covers the etiology of dental pathology and treatments. Dr. Fox discourages the use of mercury and prefers gold or tin instead. In this book, Dr. Fox was critical of Dr. John Hunter’s human tooth transplantations as unethical for the source was impoverished individuals selling it. He also considered it risky for transmission of infections, although at the time infection was poorly understood. Overall, Dr. Fox had a considerable impact on the field of dentistry during his time.
Based on research done by Patricia Portela, class of 2025 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2021-2022. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.