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Distinguished Dentists: Notable Dentists of the Past

By Jill Hamilton on April 23, 2013 in Just for Kicks


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When you think of famous people, your dentist is probably the last person you would think of! Glamour and dentistry don't usually go hand and hand. In TV shows or movies there are few examples of characters playing dentists – Herminone Granger's parents in the Harry Potter series, Rachel's ex-fiancée on Friends, Stu on The Hangover, and Doug in Wild Hogs. Unfortunately, there aren't many leading ladies or heartthrobs that portray dentists.

But, there have been some notable real life dentists.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday
Primarily remembered for antics in the Old West and his connection to Wyatt Earp with the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Doc Holliday was a gambler, a gunfighter and a dentist. Holliday left his home in Georgia when he was 19 to study dentistry in Philadelphia. He obtained his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He then opened a dental office in Atlanta, but soon after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to Dallas, Texas. While he opened a new practice, he discovered gambling was a more lucrative vocation.

Friedrich “Fritz” Pfeffer
Pfeffer was a German dentist and Jewish refugee during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherland. More commonly known as his pseudonym Albert Dussel from The Diary of Anne Frank, he perished in the Neuengamme concentration camp in Northern Germany.

Dr. Samuel A. Bemis
Bemis was one of the earliest photographers in the United States. He was a practicing dentist in Boston when in April 1840 he acquired an early camera and became one of the first Americans to take a photograph.

Edgar Buchanan
Bauchanan was an American actor with a long career in both film and television, most familiar today as Uncle Joe Carson from the Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies television sitcoms of the 1960s.

So, maybe dentists have not been the chosen profession for screenwriters in Hollywood, but with infamous criminals, famed roommates, photographers, poker players and television icons, the real professionals have been not too shabby either.