Journal Mobile

M Nicolson, GS Taylor
Journal Issue: 
Volume 39: Issue 1: 2009




Once the germ theory had become generally accepted within medicine, the  importance  of  experimental  science  to  the  improvement  of  medical  practice could  no  longer  be  reasonably  doubted.  However,  clinicians  still  sought  to  retain  control of how knowledge that had originated in the laboratory was interpreted and applied  within  practical  diagnostics  and  therapeutics.  Thus  how  practitioners incorporated new scientific knowledge into their medical discourse and practice is a matter for careful empirical inquiry. James Sim Wallace, born in Renfrewshire in 1869 and  a  graduate  in  medicine  from  the  University  of  Glasgow,  was  a  leading  figure  in British  dentistry  throughout  the  first  half  of  the  twentieth  century.  Through  an examination of his voluminous writings, we explore how the new ‘chemico-parasitical’ theory  of  dental  caries  was  accommodated  within  dentists’  understanding  of  oral hygiene. The paper also looks at the controversies that surrounded the application of the  vitamin  theory  to  the  problems  of  rickets  and  dental  caries,  focusing  on  the contentious interaction between Sim Wallace and his colleagues, on the one hand, and the eminent physiologists May and Edward Mellanby, on the other.