American Medical Biographies/Harris, Chapin Aaron

Harris, Chapin Aaron (1806–1860).

Chapin was born at Pompey, Onondaga County, New York, May 6, 1806, the son of John and Elizabeth Brundage Harris, natives of England. When about seventeen he moved to Madison, Ohio, and studied under his brother John, who was practising medicine there. After pursuing the course of study prescribed by law, he was examined by the Board of Medical Censors of Ohio and was licensed to practise. He commenced to practise himself at Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio, and continued there some years, when his attention was called to the possibilities of dentistry by his brother John, who had taken it up in 1827. In 1883, after study and practise of dentistry, Chapin settled in Baltimore, and during the next two years contributed to the pages of medical and periodical literature.

He published his first book in 1839; it was entitled, "The Dental Art: A Practical Treatise on Dental Surgery," and went through thirteen editions. Many thousand copies of this book, probably the most popular on dental work ever published, were sold. Next came his "Dictionary of Dental Science," a dictionary of dental science, biography, bibliography, and medical terminology, 1849 (five editions), the later editions also edited by Gorgas. In 1846 he revised with numerous additions Joseph Fox's "Disease of the Human Teeth, Their Natural History and Functions, with Mode of Applying Artificial Teeth, Etc." He also translated for the American Journal of Dental Science the works of a number of French authors.

He was a laborious and untiring worker, writing far into the morning after days of ceaseless labor and fatigue and keeping this up to the end of his life. For the preservation and extension of the experience of dentists he interested some of his New York brethren, and with their aid founded The American Journal of Dental Science. In the need for educational advantages for dentists they joined him in a petition to the authorities of Maryland University to found a dental department. This effort failing, together with a similar one in one of the New York medical colleges, they determined upon independent action and during 1839–40 secured signatures of citizens to the Legislature of Maryland for the incorporation of a College of Dental Surgery in Baltimore. The charter was granted February 1, 1840. Dr. Harris received several degrees—M. A. from the University of Maryland; M. D. from Washington Medical College, Baltimore, 1838; D. D. S. from Philadelphia Dental College, 1854. The Harris Dental Association of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, founded in 1867, was named in his honor. He was a diligent reader and student and collected a large and valuable private library.

He was remarkably handsome; was six feet two and a half inches in height and finely proportioned, with hazel eyes and a most benevolent expression.

His death occurred on September 29, 1860, after an illness of eight months from an obscure disease of the liver.

He married, January 11, 1826, Lucinda Heath, daughter of the Rev. Barton Dawnes Hawley, of White Chimneys, Loudon County, Virginia, and had nine children.

History of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, by William Simon, Ph. D., M. D., and "A Biographical Review of the Careers of Hayden and Harris," with portraits, by Burton Lee Thorpe, M. D., D. D. S., in Trans. of Fourth International Den. Congress held at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904, vol. iii.