From the Dental Archives

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Citation of Original:

Kingsbury, CA. Professional Etchings. Dental Cosmos 10 (1868):14-17.

Kingsbury, CA. Professional Etchings. Dental Cosmos 10 (1868):344-349.

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SAILING from New York April 13th, I found myself after the lapse of some twelve days in the City of Paris. As I desired to reach the most distant points of my destination as expeditiously as possible, and finish my travels in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria before the hot season came on, I decided to leave at Paris, until my return, such dental instruments and all other professional impedimentia I had taken with me, except a small pocket case of surgical instruments for use in case of accidents

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and certain medical remedies, as quinine, etc., indispensable to the health and comfort of the Eastern traveler.

During the voyage across the Atlantic, the surgeon of the steamer Arago having a patient who was suffering from diseased teeth, had called upon me for advice, and desired me to perform the necessary operations for the relief of the sufferer. Of course I responded to the demand, and received from both the patient and surgeon the acknowledgment of the grateful appreciation of my services. It was with the view of rendering aid and relieving suffering humanity in special cases of this kind, and also to afford to an isolated brother in the profession struggling along under great disadvantages and difficulties, an opportunity now and then of witnessing such operations at my hand as might possibly reflect some light and encouragement upon his pathway, and perchance stimulate him to a higher standard of dental practice, that I was led to take with me from Philadelphia a small stock of material for filling teeth, in the shape of gold foil and plastic gold, together with the requisite number of the most approved modern dental instruments of American manufacture for performing the more important operations.

I began to realize that my original plan, however benevolent and praiseworthy, could not be carried out without imposing too heavy a tax upon my time, and seriously interfering with the intended and necessary expedition of my trip. It was not, however, without some feelings of reluctance that I left the excavators and pluggers behind, and with them all my cherished hopes of being able to honor and immortalize American dentistry, by leaving among the pyramids and hieroglyphics of Egypt, the record of some golden operations upon the dental organs of the reigning monarch of the Ottoman Empire, or the Pacha of Egypt. But I received ample compensation for my blasted hopes, in the long-desired and joyous freedom I realized in my anticipated separation for a few months from all the implements, and relief from the close confinement, and onerous duties of my profession. Subsequently in all my travels there were only two instances in which I felt the slightest regret at having left my dental instruments. The first instance was when our dragoman or guide, Mustapha Hassen Mussa, met with a most singular and painful accident. It occurred in the following manner. One day as we were traveling along the Phcenician coast of the Mediterranean Sea, on our way from Tyre to Sidon, we came to the ancient Leontes. It was a hot day, and we were all fatigued and thirsty. Our jaded horses too, as well as their riders, were glad to stop and rest upon the verdant banks of this classic stream, and slake their thirst with its cool waters fresh from the snowy mountains of Lebanon. There were some two or three native women filling their earthen jars with water, and our dragoman asked them to give us a drink. One of them handed to us a goulah, an urn-shaped earthen bottle filled with water, from which we all took a

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most refreshing draught sitting upon our horses. Our dragoman then drank, and while in the act of drinking, his horse, being a restive animal, suddenly threw back its head, striking the bottom of the goulah with a force so great as to produce an oblique transverse fracture of his right superior central incisor. It was a large sound tooth, and the crown adhered to the gum on the palatal side, while the delicate and sensitive pulp was exposed and bleeding, irritated by the sharp broken edges. It was a sad blow. Poor fellow, I pitied him! His sufferings for awhile were most excruciating. He cried like a child, and I did not wonder. His loss as well as his suffering was great. I then wished for the means to relieve his distress and repair so far as possible his sad loss. The second instance was while I was at Damascus. Through the kindness of Dr. Meshaka-acting American consul-to whom we had letters of introduction from Dr. Jessup, American missionary at Beirout, we had the favor of an introduction to the distinguished Algerine Emir Abd-elKader, with whom we had a most interesting and pleasant interview, a son of Dr. Meshaka acting as interpreter. It will be remembered that Abd-el-Kader successfully resisted the French forces for many years, and proved himself a brave and able general. He was finally defeated and captured by greatly superior forces, and was imprisoned by Louis Philippe in the Castle of Amboise, in France. In 1853 he was released by Louis Napoleon, and retired to the ancient City of Damascus with a pension of thirty thousand dollars a year. At the time of the bloody massacre of the Christians in Syria by the Mohammedans in 1860, he nobly interposed in behalf of the Christians, placing himself between them and their bloodthirsty persecutors, and thus arrested the further flow of blood, saving many thousands of helpless men, women, and children from a terrible death. By this truly brave and noble act, he has endeared himself to the Christian world. A prisoner of war, on his parole of honor, he lives in princely style, surrounded by a retinue of servants. At the time of my visit to him, on learning my profession, he expressed a desire that I should operate upon his teeth. I was obliged to confess my inability to grant his request, as I had not the necessary instruments. You can imagine my feeling of sincere regret. Favored with so distinguished a patient, it would have been a pleasant professional reminiscence in after-years, in the event I had bestowed upon one so worthy, some of the benefits of our profession in this the oldest of cities-the paradise of the Orient, the seat of the Caliphate about which I had so often read and wondered in my early youth.

On my return to Paris, I mentioned the circumstance incidentally to Dr. Evans, who informed me that in former years he had been a patient of his, and asked me if I had noticed that he had lost one of his superior incisors. I told him I had. He then related the following incident. He proposed to Abd-el-Kader, among other operations, that he

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should have that missing tooth replaced with an artificial one. No, he said that must never be done, for he had lost that tooth while engaged in battle; and the Koran said " that he who fought for his country must fight even to the losing of his teeth."

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THE American traveler, on arriving at Alexandria, Egypt, is strongly impressed with the fact that he is in a foreign land. Strange sights meet his eyes, and strange sounds salute his ears on all sides. He is transferred from the steamer to a small lighter, and on landing, soon finds himself in charge of a custom-house official of Ethiopian extraction, clothed with the badge of authority; and as he examines your baggage he does not fail to impress you that he fully appreciates the responsibility and dignity of his position. On the way to your hotel your ob-

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servations will be apt to lead you to the conclusion that the population consists of a more mixed and diversified character than any other city upon the face of the globe. You see all shades of color, from the jetblack Nubian to the delicate white complexion of the Caucasian; and all grades of civilization, too, from the wild Arab of the African desert to the refined European. You may see in this Oriental city representatives from nearly all the nations and tribes of the earth. It would be a capital place for the ethnologist to prosecute the study of his favorite science, invested, as it would be, with all the interest and advantage to be derived from having the living specimens constantly before him.

Here could be seen the Abyssinian with his incisor teeth of both jaws filed to sharp points, and representatives from other tribes in the interior of Africa with their teeth filed in a similar manner, in order to give a more savage aspect to the countenance, or to give additional beauty of expression. The African explorer, Paul B. Du Chaillu, states that the same style of filing the front teeth existed among some of the tribes he visited in Equatorial Africa, and that no female was entitled to be considered a belle without this peculiarity of the dental organs. The operation consists in removing the proximal angles of the cutting edges without exposing the pulp of the tooth. Although the operation must of necessity be performed with rude instruments and without much skill, yet an examination of the teeth of several persons in advanced age showed that they were perfectly sound; thus proving most conclusively that the filing of the teeth does not necessarily cause them to decay. I was reminded of the fact that it was in this city Aetius resided, who lived in the fifth century, and whose writings on medicine, surgery, and dentistry fill some sixteen volumes, who gave perhaps the earliest correct anatomical description of the teeth, as it relates to their being supplied with nerves from the trifacial, and also recommends the filling of decayed teeth with resinous substances, such as wax and galbanum. He was also the first, so far as is known, to advocate the use of the file in dental operations. His advice to file the teeth freely to remedy their irregularity was, however, founded in error, and would not meet with much favor among educated and skillful dentists of modern times.

Alexandria was founded B.C. 323, by the great conqueror from whom it took its name. After he had conquered Syria, advanced into Egypt, taken Memphis, the capital, and made himself master of the entire country, he started on a visit to the celebrated Temple of Jupiter Ammon in the African desert. As he pursued his way along the coast westward from Canopus, he was struck with the peculiar advantages for a great seaport and city, offered in the small town of Racotis, opposite to the Isle of Pharos. This was the spot, according to tradition, where the fabulous Proteus-the prophet and sea-god of Virgil-had his abode. Homer speaks of this spot as a watering-place in the time of the Trojan

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war, and from a very remote period its harbor had afforded refuge to the Greek navigators who dared the perils of the capricious Mediterranean. Alexander, on examining the spot in connection with its natural harbor, decided to make it the site of a great naval station. The plan of the city was drawn, and Dinocrates, an architect of great celebrity, was ordered to build what afterward rose to be the great emporium of the East.

Notwithstanding Alexander's insatiable ambition for conquest, and his unexampled success in military achievements, he was not forgetful of the interests of education. While he was the pupil of Aristotle, he received his instructions with becoming deference and evident pleasure, and he assisted his preceptor with his money to complete his great work on Natural History. Although the conqueror of the world, he was the patron of learning. The founder of mighty cities and empires, he was the true friend of education, and the organizer of schools of philosophy and science. He seems to have been ambitious that the city which he had built and called by his own name should become the seat of learning, the centre of art and science. In accordance with his design, be gathered from Greece, Egypt, and the East, the most distinguished professors, and men of profound scholastic attainments. In the progress of time, Alexandria took a pre-eminent position in letters and literature, and pupils from every part of the then known world gathered to drink at her fountains of philosophy and science. Egyptians, Jews, and Arabs, as well as Greeks and Romans, here quaffed the waters from the Pierian Springs. After the death of Alexander, one of his great captains, who was the first in the line of kings, instituted the Academy called the Museum, with which was connected a society of learned men who devoted themselves to the study of the sciences. He also established the famous Alexandrian Library, which increased until it became one of the great attractions of the city. It contained some 700,000 volumes. Who can tell what valuable contributions some of these volumes would have proved to dental as well as medical sciencel What an insight some of these lost works might have given us into the early history and ancient practice of dental surgery! The renown of the ancient Egyptian College at Heliopolis, which had been the resort of the sages of ancient Greece, was transferred to Alexandria, and the Greek capital of Egypt became the repository of the learning and wisdom of the Egyptians; and the names of Euclid, Hipparchus, Clement, Origen, Theon and his daughter Hypatia, and others of equal distinction, shed their glory upon the literary reputation of Alexandria. With such advantages, is it any wonder that the institutions of this city gained a worldwide renown, and have exerted such an influence on mankind? Nearly all the ancient literature we possess has come down to us through the schools of this city; and the legacy would have been

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of inestimably more value but for the destruction of the greater part of the extensive library. A large part of it was destroyed by fire at the time Julius CEesar waged war against the Alexandrians. Again it suffered greatly during the revolutions that occurred in the Roman empire. The final work of destruction took place in A.D. 642, by the Saracens. Amrou, the commander of the army of Omar, was disposed to spare the library, and wrote to the Caliph to obtain his consent to do so. But the bigoted Mohammedan wrote back his well-known reply: "If these writings of the Greeks agree with the Koran, or book of God, they are useless, and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious, and ought to be destroyed." The sentence of destruction was executed, and the thousands of volumes were distributed among the 4000 baths of the city, and served as precious fuel for six months before they were all consumed. Alexandria was distinguished especially for its medical schools. Here lived and labored Herodotus, Galen, Aetius, and many others of note in the early annals of medical science. The works of Aetius and other medical authors were consigned to the flames. From what has been preserved, we learn that the Egyptians cultivated the science of medicine at an early date-that each physician applied himself to some one specialty. Some made the treatment of the dental organs their special branch of study; and although we are unable from the records that have come down to us to obtain a clear and satisfactory knowledge of the exact condition of dental science at that early period, we have no difficulty in tracing our profession back to the days of the Egyptians through the medium of historical records, as well as from the existing evidences and specimens of dental art discovered every now and then in connection with the mummified bodies taken from the tombs and catacombs of Egypt. The writer had no opportunity of making personal researches in this direction. But he has met with several gentlemen, whose veracity he could not question, who stated that they had not only seen artificial teeth, but even gold fillings in teeth found in the sarcophagi of the ancient Egyptians. It will be remembered that the Egyptians attached great value to the dental organs, and one of their most severe punishments consisted in having one of the front teeth extracted. It would be natural to suppose that in order to avoid the suspicion of guilt, as well as to remove the deformity, artificial teeth were invented and substituted for the lost ones. Bone and wooden teeth were discovered by Belzora and others in some of the Egyptian tombs; and whatever may have been the wisdom and skill of the Egyptians, we have no indications that would lead us to conclude that the artificial teeth manufactured and used by the Egyptian dentists were in any respect comparable to the highly artistic and beautiful productions of the present day; and I may truly add, especially those of American manufacture, which have recently triumphed over universal competition.

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The teeth of the modern Egyptians I found to be finely developed, and generally free from caries. But little dentistry is therefore required by the native population. Alexandria, however, as well as Cairo, has a large European population; and I learned that there were four or five dentists in the two cities who enjoyed a lucrative practice.

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Date last edited: May 12, 1999.