Dr. GV Black History

The G. V. Black District Dental Society is named in honor of Dr. Greene Vardiman Black who is known as "one of the founders of modern dentistry." Dr. Black was the recipient of many honors and recognitions for his valuable contributions to dental science. He was born in Scott County, Illinois in 1836, the fifth son to William and Mary Black. He started his practice of dentistry at the age of 21 in Scott County in Winchester, Illinois. After a brief period of service in the Civil War, Dr. Black then established a dental practice in Jacksonville, Illinois. While Jacksonville was the base for his dental office, Dr. Black would travel to St. Louis, Iowa City and Chicago to teach at colleges. He was a great dental researcher, author, dental instrument designer and dental teacher. Dr. Black was Dean of Northwestern University Dental School. In 1900 he was elected President of the National Dental Association, now the American Dental Association.

He received his first honorary D.D.S. Degree from the Missouri Dental College in 1877. He had been practicing dentistry for 20 years and lecturing on dentistry for seven years before he was awarded that degree.

In 1881, the first Dental Practice Act in Illinois was enacted. From 1881 to 1887, Dr. Black served as President of the State Board of Dental Examiners. He received honorary degrees from Illinois College in 1892 and Northwestern University in 1898 and was bestowed a Sc.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He was the author of many dental textbooks, research important to dentistry including definitive work in dental anatomy and histology, providing the basis for the principles of cavity preparation. He also invented and designed many instruments used in dentistry. He was a pioneer in the use of the microscope for studying dental disease. His work in microbiology and cellular pathology led to a better understanding of dental caries, periodontal disease and other pathological conditions and subsequently contributed to improved methods of treatment.

Upon his death, a statue of Dr. Black was placed in his honor in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois.

His name is also engraved in the frieze near the top of the State of Illinois' Centennial Building in Springfield, Illinois. Northwestern University Dental School organized a series of permanent exhibits of Dr. Black's instruments and manuscripts, including a recreation of his dental office in his Jacksonville home. This exhibit is now on display at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore.

Sources: Greene Vardiman Black--Here He Grew Into Greatness--G. V. Black District Dental Society. G. V. Black - The Pearson Museum Monograph Series, Department of Medical Humanities, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Photo Courtesy of Northwestern University