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AADR honors Dr. Ray Bowen with Distinguished Scientist Award

March 20, 2014

Dr. Ray Bowen

Charlotte, N.C.—Dr. Ray Bowen, of the ADA Foundation Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center, received the 2014 American Association for Dental Research Distinguished Scientist Award March 19 here at the AADR 43rd Annual Meeting & Exhibition.

Aside from the honor, the GlaxoSmithKline-sponsored award comprises travel expenses to the annual meeting and a plaque and $5,000. The award biennially recognizes a scientist "who has contributed outstanding research of particular significance in any of the fields related to oral science."

Dr. Bowen is perhaps best known for his development of dental composites, patented in the 1960s. Leading up to this, his career trajectory includes serving in the Army during World War II and later enrolling at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. His interest in the strength and durability of the materials used for dental restorations evolved from dental school to dental practice.

"The notice of being given the AADR Distinguished Scientist Award came as a surprise—a very happy surprise," Dr. Bowen said. "It inspires me to continue current efforts to develop improved preventive and restorative dental materials."

As a young dentist in private practice in the early 1950s, Dr. Bowen was frustrated with poor-quality direct filling materials and began exploring potential options. He set up a laboratory on his back porch in San Diego, where he had moved after dental school.

"I tried to make a hybrid material using a commercial epoxy resin as an adhesive binder to glue together powdered particles of silica glass or dental porcelain," he told the ADA News in 1994 (in an article published after he was named the ADA's first distinguished scientist).

With continued manipulation of these materials, he managed a breakthrough. "It occurred to me to replace the epoxy group on each end of this same kind of molecule with a methacrylate group," he said. "It was known that methacrylate groups polymerize rapidly under oral conditions. I hoped that the rest of the molecule would contribute many of the good properties of epoxies that made them so useful in many industrial applications."

His efforts led to the creation of BIS-GMA resin, patented in 1962 while Dr. Bowen was with the ADA Research Unit at the National Bureau of Standards. He joined the ADA staff in 1956 after his first published research paper and presentation at an International Association for Dental Research meeting led to encountering Dr. Robert Nelson of the ADA Research Unit (which evolved to become first the ADAF Paffenbarger Research Center and later the ADAF Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center). There, he continued his work on composites.

After years of research achievement for the ADA, including development of many other dental materials, Dr. Bowen became director of the PRC in 1983. He was director of PRC from 1983-1994. He traded his director duties to become the ADA's first distinguished scientist in 1994, allowing him to focus again on full-time research.

"Dr. Bowen has achieved legendary status in this field of research, because of his long history of important discoveries and the impact those have made on dentistry," said Dr. David Whiston, president, ADA Foundation Board of Directors. "We are very proud of his contributions to our profession, and pleased to see him still at work at the ADA Foundation Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center."

"The author of more than 265 research articles, seven book chapters and 37 patents, Dr. Bowen personifies what the VRC works so hard to accomplish to this very day," said Dr. Charles Norman, ADA president. "He has spent his scientific career improving the oral health of the public through unwavering commitment and exemplary research."