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English Heritage blue plaque for Lilian Lindsay, the first female dentist to qualify in Britain. Image copyright: English Heritage. English Heritage blue plaque erected to Lilian Lindsay

A new plaque commemorating Lilian Lindsay, the first female dentist to qualify in Britain, has been unveiled at her childhood home in North London.

The plaque, which has been erected as part of the well-known scheme run by English Heritage, is in Islington at 3 Hungerford Road where she lived from 1872–1892.  It was unveiled on 17 April 2013.

Lilian was the third of eleven children born to parents James and Margaret Murray. After winning a scholarship to the North London Collegiate School she rejected the encouragement of her head teacher to become involved in the teaching of deaf children, instead commencing a three-year apprenticeship with a dentist.

After passing the preliminary examination for registration as a dental student, she applied to enter the National Dental Hospital and School on London’s Great Portland Street. Her application was refused on grounds of gender though, and it was suggested that she instead apply to the Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School.
Her application to Edinburgh was accepted and she qualified in 1895. As well as practising, she took an active interest in dental politics and the advancement of the dental profession and oral health. She supported her husband, Robert, who she had met in Edinburgh, in becoming the first Dental Secretary to the British Dental Association in 1919.

After the couple had retired from practice she dedicated her energies to the establishment of the BDA’s Library and Museum and published an array of papers. Following Robert’s death she served for more than twenty years as Sub Editor for the British Dental Journal and became the first female BDA President in 1946.

In 2012/3 the BDA Museum hosted a temporary exhibition about her life. As part of the exhibition the three portraits of Lindsay have been displayed together for the first time. The paintings by Kathleen Williams, Thomas Cantrell Dugdale and Frank Samuel Eastman remain on display at the BDA’s Wimpole Street headquarters building in London.

The blue plaque scheme traces its origins to a proposal by politician and reformer William Ewart in 1863. The first of the two, now universally-recognised roundels, were erected in 1867 to commemorate the birthplace of Lord Byron and the residence of Napoleon III. Lindsay joins a very small group of dentists to be honoured by the scheme. Others include anaesthesia and dentistry pioneer James Robinson, Queen Victoria’s dentist Edwin Saunders, dental radiology pioneer Frank Harrison, and the man regarded as the father of preventive dentistry in the UK, George Cunningham.

Current temporary exhibitions 

11547 Lilian LindsayLilian Lindsay  and the Lindsay Society

Our current temporary exhibition marks the remarkable life of Lilian Lindsay, the first female to qualify as a dentist in the UK. She was also an esteemed dental historian and the display celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Lindsay Society for the History of Dentistry.  

John McLean Archive: A Living History of Dentistry 

John McLean archive witness seminar twoThe website for the John McLean Archive will be launched at the 2013 BDA Conference and Exhibition from 25th - 27th April.