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Biographical entry Mummery, John Howard (1847 - 1926)

CBE; MRCS Nov 15th 1870; FRCS (elected as a Member of twenty years' standing) April 12th 1923; LDS 1873; Hon DSc Pennsylvania 1915.

19 January 1847
30 August 1926
Maxillofacial surgeon


Born on Jan 19th, 1847, the son of John R Mummery, distinguished as a dental surgeon and anthropologist, author of the pioneer work on the incidence of dental caries among different races - On the Relations which Dental Caries, as discovered amongst the Ancient Inhabitants of Britain, and amongst Existing Aboriginal Races, may be supposed to hold to their Food and Social Conditions - (8vo, 2 tables, London, 1870).

John Howard Mummery, after a private school education, studied at University College Hospital, where under Sharpey he early began to work as microscopist on the very difficult subject of dental histology. He joined his father in dental practice in Cavendish Square, and in 1893 was elected to the Court of Examiners in Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1897 was awarded by the College the Tomes Prize. He was President of the Odontological Society of Great Britain in 1892 and again in 1908, when the Society became the Odontological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine. He also held office as President of the British Dental Association and of the Sixth International Dental Congress in London in 1914.

During the European War he was Registrar and Superintendent of the Maxillofacial Hospital for Injuries of the Face and Jaws at Kennington, for which services he was awarded the CBE. He was a Member of the Committee for the Investigation of Dental Diseases of the Medical Research Council, and in 1922 received the Miller Prize of the International Dental Federation in recognition of his original and scientific research in dental histology. The dental tissues present so many technical difficulties to an investigator of their minute structures that exceptional skill and patience are required.

Mummery's addition to knowledge of the normal and morbid changes in the structure created a scientific conception of dental disease. Dental anatomy has such an important bearing on zoology that both zoologists and anthropologists appreciated his work. Mummery was the first to describe adequately the development of dentine, of which he gave an account in 1892. His best-known work was the demonstration of the nerves which enter the dental tubules. It had been obvious long ago that the dental pulp was richly supplied by nerves, and for many years histologists sought without success to demonstrate them. Mummery, after long stages of work in preparing sections to show a hard tissue-like dentine at the same time as a delicate tissue pulp, succeeded in doing so, and his results were generally accepted. He succeeded both in demonstrating the passage of the neurofibrils into the dental pulp, and also in showing that enamel has an organic content which exhibits vital reaction to injury and disease.

Mummery in middle life was remarkable for his fresh countenance and sandy hair. He was the most modest and kindest of men, ever ready in the service of research; a charming, humorous companion, widely read and with artistic interests. In spite of weakening sight, within the last two months of his life he published two papers on histological researches of first-rate importance. He attained a European reputation, not merely as a technician of great skill, but as a vigorous and clear writer with a wide knowledge of general anatomy and pathology. He was a skilled draughtsman, and enriched his communications with excellent drawings, in addition to microphotographs of his remarkable sections. As a water-colour painter he possessed great merit.

He had retired to live at 79, Albert Bridge Road, when, on a holiday in Cornwall, he died after a short illness on Aug 30th, 1926.

Notes on the Preparation of Microscopical Sections of Teeth and Bone, 8vo, London, 1890.
"Some Points in the Structure and Development of Dentine." - Phil Trans, 1891, clxxxii, B, 527.
"On the Distribution of the Nerves of the Dental Pulp." - Ibid, 1912, ccii, B, 337.
"On the Process of Calcification of Enamel and Dentine." - Ibid, 1914, ccv, B, 95.
" On the Nature of the Tubes in Marsupial Enamel and its Bearing on Enamel Development." - Ibid, 295.
"On the Structure and Development of the Tubular Enamel of the Sparidae and Labridre." - Ibid, 1918, ccviii, B, 251.
"The Epithelial Sheath of Hertwig in Man." - Ibid, 1920, ccix, B, 305.
"On the Nerve and Nerve Cells of the Dental Pulp." - Ibid, 321.
His classic work: The Microscopic Anatomy of the Teeth, with Illustrations and Biographies, 8vo, London, 1919; 2nd ed, 1924, enlarged to include the general anatomy of the teeth, human and comparative.
"The Pathology of Chronic Perforating Hyperplasia of the Pulp." - Brit Dent Jour, 1926, xlvii, 801, with portrait.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1926, ii, 576, with portrait. Nature, 1926, cxviii, 454; M F H there described Mummery "among the worthies of his profession, as a distinguished follower of Thomas. Bell, James Salter, John and Charles Tomes", Dental Record, 1926, xlvi, 567].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England