A Treatise on the Teeth

A Treatise on the Teeth




Bartholomew Ruspini


Bartholomew Ruspini was a prominent surgeon born in 1728 in the city of Bergamo, northeast of Milan. He is most notably known in the medical community for his publication "A Treatise on the Teeth", as well as being King George IV's dental surgeon. He is also known for being a renowned Free Mason who established institutions.
His educational career began in Italy, at a hospital in Bergamo, where he studied the art of surgery. To further his practical knowledge in 1758 he traveled to Paris to work under the tutelage of Caperon, a court dentist, followed by Bath, and finally, in 1766 to London. Where he settled for the rest of his life.

At the time, London was home to 800,000 residents crowded on the north bank of Thames near Chelsea. England was becoming more and more popular as the industrial revolution was underway. Ruspini arrived carrying letters of recommendation from influential connections from France and Italy. The 30-year-old Ruspini then entered the circles of royalty by opening a dental house opposite of the Prince of Wales.

As his influence in England heightened, he was able to set up the Prince of Wales lodge, and was initiated into the Free Masonry Bush Lodge. Soon after, he was awarded the rank of Grand Sword Bearer. Notably, he always used the influence he gained for the better. While he was experiencing many of the luxuries of the world, he did not neglect the poor in the slums of London. The Royal Cumberland School, one of his projects was opened to serve as an orphanage and educational institution for the poor girls, a school still open to this day. After his death in 1813, a statue was dedicated to him at the Royal Masonic School for Girls memorializing his compassion, generosity and goodwill.

A Treatise on the Teeth is a comprehensive study aimed at providing a general overview of teeth and their supporting structures. Although Fauchard’s book had already seen two editions in France, a German and other European translation, it was not yet translated into English. It will have to wait until 1946. Therefore, Ruspini's book was an important addition to the English language dental literature and had seen 11 further editions in the next 30 years. Additionally, he went on to layout a foundation for prevention of the most notable accidents associated with "unskillful practitioners". This book is considered one of a kind because of its holistic nature. It did not neglect the causes of caries, including the uses of dentifrices containing mercury and the effects of sugar or even the eruption of teeth. Finally, he provided a means to preserve the natural structure of teeth and its supporting structure. Not only was Ruspini able to make a difference during his lifetime, but his legacy lived on through for years.

Based in part on research done by Zacharia Fouad, class of 2021 as part of their assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2017-2018. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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