bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
Radio 4
PROGRAMME FINDER:
Programmes
Podcast
Schedule
Presenters
PROGRAMME GENRES:
News
Drama
Comedy
Science
Religion|Ethics
History
Factual
Messageboards
Radio 4 Tickets
Radio 4 Help

About the BBC

Contact Us

Help


Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

Science
WITH REFERENCE TO...
MISSED A PROGRAMME?
Go to the Listen Again page

Five programmes recorded on location at definitive collections.

Monday 19 August 2002, 9.30-9.45am

Quentin Cooper visits the Odontological Museum in London where he discovers how the world's largest collection of teeth and skulls can illuminate subjects as diverse as the history of venereal disease, dental treatment in pandas and Winston Churchill's speech impediment...

Skull

In the Odontological Museum (housed in the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Field in London, there are tens of thousands of teeth, jaws and skulls: healthy teeth and diseased and deformed ones, from both humans and animals. Its collection of animal dental pathologies is the very best in the world and includes deformities such as a hippo tusk so over-grown it curves back on itself to form a large perfect circle.

The curator Simon Chaplin starts Quentin Cooper's tour with this zoological oddity, along with an outline of how the museum came into existence in the 1850s. It was founded as part of a campaign by Victorian dental surgeon John Tomes to transform dentistry from a profession (among whom numbered mere blacksmiths) to medical science. With a definitive collection of teeth and skulls, dental surgeons could then study how teeth grew and how dental diseases developed, and thereby treat their patients more effectively.
Quentin Cooper also meets up with Professor Simon Hillson, an archaeologist from University College, London. The Odontological Museum contains Europe's best collection of teeth deformed by congenital syphilis. This causes the teeth of infected children to take on characteristic abnormal features. Simon Hillson is using the collection here in the hope of understanding why there was a virulent epidemic of syphilis across Europe in the 1500s, and whether the disease was introduced to the Old World by colonisers' contact with native Americans.

Aside from his research, Professor Hillson waxes lyrically on the aesthetics of teeth. As all three contributors gather round the skull of a panda which died in London Zoo in the 1950s, Simon Hillson declares the panda's upper 3rd molar to be one of his favourite teeth. His favourite belongs to the complex toothed squirrel, also from China. Curator Simon Chaplin points out that as well as objects of beauty, these exotic animal specimens are valuable research objects for zoo vets who need to treat endangered animals for dental diseases.

Finally, Simon Chaplin shows Quentin Cooper a special set of dentures that belonged to Winston Churchill and explains why he believes these false teeth saved the free world.

Listen again to the programme Listen again to the programme

Listen Live
Audio Help
DON'T MISS
Leading Edge
WITH REFERENCE TO...
The Diageo Drinks Archive
The British Antarctic Survey
The Natural History Herbarium
The Survey of English Dialects
The Odontological Museum
Latest Programme
RELATED PROGRAMMES
Case Notes
Check Up
The Material World

News & Current Affairs | Arts & Drama | Comedy & Quizzes | Science | Religion & Ethics | History | Factual

Back to top

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy