The American Dental Society of Europe was founded on 4th July, 1873, in a hotel near the summit of Mount Rigi, close to the city of Lucerne in Switzerland. The five founding members were all United States citizens, practising dentistry in their adopted European country; they were Drs. Charles T. Terry from Zurich, J.G. van Marter and Cyrus M. Wright from Basel and Neil W. Williams and George W. Field from Geneva.

Original Engraving of Rigi-Kulm

The world’s first dental school had been opened in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1839 and throughout the 19th century dental training in the United States was much superior to that in Europe, where there was no formal dental education. In the latter part of the century Europe was enjoying a long period of peace and prosperity and a large number of United States citizens had settled there to take up this successful life-style. Because of their superior techniques American dentists became greatly sought after, both by their own citizens and also by many of the Royalty and nobility in Europe.

The Founders of the Society

The five founding members had plenty to discuss at the inaugural meeting as well as the celebration of the birth of their nation. A major worry was that certain European dentists falsely claimed to be ‘American dentists’ and, not having the requisite skills, were beginning to cause the reputation of the genuine Americans to be undermined. The founders were also keen to exchange professional ideas and arranged the first formal meeting to be held in Basel on November 27th 1873, no doubt also to celebrate Thanksgiving. Little would they have realised the impact that the Society would have throughout the world in the ensuing years, how it would influence the dental profession, how its roll of members would contain many of the world’s leading dentists at any one time and how it would survive the catastrophe of two world wars, still to be flourishing in the 21st century and with the original objectives held intact. Indeed, it is said that there is only one international society of greater longevity, that being the International Red Cross.

Presidential Badge of Office

Up to the year 2019 there have been 124 annual meetings, with breaks only for the World Wars. All meetings have been held in Europe and current practice is to hold the annual meeting towards the middle of June. Each meeting is of four days duration, a recreational day on the Wednesday followed by three days of essays and clinics. Reading a list of all these presented since 1873 is like looking at the history of dentistry. The scientific part of the meeting is the most important, but each evening social events are organised which try to capture the flavour of whichever country is being visited. Daytime events are also organised for the non-dental partners. Lasting friendships are made between the members of the Society and the many visitors who are always welcome to all the meetings. So much so that the regular attenders almost regard themselves as being part of one large family, which meets once each year. Strong ties are still maintained with American dentistry; many of the essayists at the meetings are Americans and the Society is nearly always privileged to welcome the current President of the American Dental Association as its most honoured guest. The next annual meeting will be held at Hotel Augustine, Prague, Czech Republic from 27th June through 29th June, 2019.

100th Annual Meeting Lucerne 1994
100th Annual Meeting Lucerne 1994

Members of the Society are all dentists who live and work in Europe and who have completed a full time course of study at a recognised dental school in the United States or Canada. However, the membership is now open to all dental surgeons, including those that are not practising in Europe and application for membership can be made following attendance of one annual Scientific Meeting. The Society is always pleased to welcome new members. Any, who wish to apply for membership, are requested to contact the Honorary Secretary, Dr. Gary Galovic.

First 100 Meetings - Book

The History Of The First One Hundred Meetings
by Dr. Andrew A. Macdonald