Turner, James Smith (DNB12)

TURNER, JAMES SMITH (1832–1904), dentist, born at Edinburgh on 27 May 1832, was son of Joseph Turner and Catherine Smith, his wife. His father, a hatter, was well known as a political speaker against the corn laws. At the age of fourteen Turner was apprenticed as a mechanic to a dentist named Mien of Edinburgh. He came to London in 1853, just after the failure of an appeal to the Royal College of Surgeons of England to give dentists a professional status. In 1857 Turner became a member of the college of dentists, and in August 1863 he was admitted M.R.C.S. of England and a licentiate in dental surgery of this body, the first examination for the L.D.S. having been held in May 1860.

He was appointed assistant dental surgeon to the Middlesex Hospital 19 July 1864; dental surgeon 16 April 1874; lecturer on dental surgery 2 Feb. 1881, and consulting dental surgeon 22 Feb. 1883. In succession to Robert Hepburn he was lecturer on dental surgery mechanics at the Royal Dental Hospital from 1871 until 1880, becoming consulting dental surgeon in 1896. He was an examiner on the dental board of the Royal College of Surgeons of England 1886–8.

In association with (Sir) John Tomes [q.v.] and a few other public-spirited men Turner succeeded in converting the trade of dentistry into an organised profession. In 1872 he visited the United States to study the conditions of dental practice there, and in 1875 he began work as secretary of the executive council of the dental reform committee. The object of the committee was to obtain an act of parliament to regulate dental practice and to provide for a dentists' register, admittance to and removal from which should be under the supervision of the general medical council. Much opposition was experienced, but was overcome largely by Turner's untiring energy. The Dentists Act was passed by the help of Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), and received the royal assent on 22 July 1878. On 15 August the dental register was opened, (Sir) John Tomes's name being the first to be inscribed. The British Dental Association was founded early in 1879, and Smith Turner was for many years the president of its representative board. He also held office at the Odontological Society of Great Britain from 1873 until 1884, when he was chosen president.

He died at Ealing, 22 Feb. 1904, and was buried at St. George's cemetery, Ealing.

A scholarship in practical dental mechanics was established in his memory. It is awarded by the British Dental Association and is tenable at any school.

Turner married (1) in Nov. 1866 Annie, daughter of Richard Whitbourn of Godalming, by whom he left five sons and three daughters; (2) in Dec. 1900 Agnes, daughter of the Rev. Henry Ward, M.A.

A portrait—a good likeness—was painted by Sidney Hodges in 1890 for the British Dental Association, and a replica by the same artist was presented to Turner during the annual meeting of the British Dental Association at Exeter in 1891.

[British Dental Journal, vol. xxv. 1904, p. 153 (with two portraits); Lancet, 1904, i. 519; private information.]

D’A. P.