William Henry Atkinson (1815–1891), pictured left, was the first president of the American Dental Association. He originally trained as a physician but later became interested in dentistry and the opportunities it offered at that time for a young man starting a practice.
He had prominent practices first in Cleveland, OH and later in New York City. He was a well known scholar and clinician of his era and was a frequent contributor of articles to the dental literature. His diverse interests included microscopy and the study of the natural sciences, diagnosis, physiology of the blood, alveolar abscess, decalcified teeth, dental therapeutic agents, dentures and the relation of general to specific practice.
Since its founding in 1859, there have been 143 presidents. Each of these individuals represented some of the best in the profession and the list of ADA presidents (PDF) reads as a who’s who of the history of dentistry. Among the better known are G. V. Black and Thomas Hinman.
If you are interested in finding out more on the history of the dental profession, call the Archives of the American Dental Association (312-440-7722, or the members-only 800#, x7722). The Archives, located within the ADA Library on the 6th floor of the ADA Headquarters building, houses the historical records and publications of the ADA and maintains information on all aspects of the history of the ADA, the dental profession and the people involved in dentistry. All inquiries are welcomed.