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J Hist Dent. 1999 Nov;47(3):99-104.

Martin Van Butchell (1735-1814): the eccentric, "kook" dentist of old London.

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Department of Oral Biology, Indiana University School of Dentistry, Indianapolis 46202-5186, USA.


This article is a thumbnail sketch of the life and times of Martin Van Butchell (1735-1814), an eccentric, "kook" advertising dentist of Old London. Van Butchell earned these descriptive labels by displaying an unorthodox lifestyle, an outrageous personal appearance and outlandish, extreme and socially unacceptable personal and professional behaviors. While the general populace seemed to be fascinated by his strange ways, dentists and physicians were generally alienated by them. Nevertheless, he was considered a good dentist for his time, and he was extremely popular with his patients. Martin practiced dentistry for 23 years, and he practiced medicine as well, specializing in the treatment of ruptures and anal fistulas. Van Butchell interacted greatly with both John and William Hunter, who became two of the most famous and talented physicians, surgeons, anatomists and biologists of all time. When his first wife, Mary died, Martin arranged for her body to be embalmed and publicly displayed in his dental office for advertising purposes. Her preserved body was shown at the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons (London), until it was destroyed by a German fire bomb in May, 1941. Mary's remains were on public display for a total of 166 years.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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