Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)MS78
TitleRonald Cohen Letter Collection
Extent21 items
DescriptionArtificial collection of miscellaneous letters, made by Ronald A. Cohen, specifically on the subject of the history of dentistry.

A number of the letters are written to Sir Richard Owen (1804–1892), biologist, comparative anatomist and palaeontologist between 1831 and 1853. During this time he held the position of assistant to William Clift, conservator of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons and, in 1849, he succeeded Clift in this position.. He was also appointed as Hunterian professor in the Royal College of Surgeons in 1836, hence a number of letters being addressed to him as Professor Owen. Although these letters are mostly on the subject of natural history specimens, particularly jaws and teeth - reflecting his research in the early part of his career in the studies of teeth, both of existing and extinct animals (see his published work on Odontography, 1840-1845), they do not appear to have any specific connection with each other. The collection also includes what appears to be an incomplete page of one of his writings.

There is also a small group of three letters to Samuel Adams Parker (LDS, RCS), the son of S. W. Langston Parker, a well known Birmingham surgeon and founder of the dental hospital in Birmingham relating to his resignation from the said branch of the British Dental Association, April-May 1892.

Two other letters are to Robert Nasmyth, an Edinburgh surgeon, both from John Barclay (1758–1826), anatomist. The remaining letters are from other individual authors, the most notable being Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), physician and botanist.

Where appropriate, a brief biographical entry about the author of a letter has been added to the item level description.
ArrangementArranged in a single sequence in chronological order as far as possible
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the catalogue as a PDF file by clicking in the document field below. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryRobert Alban Cohen (1907-2001) was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and the Birmingham Dental School where he qualified as L.D.S. in 1930. He became a dentist in Warwick and was also a dental surgeon at the Warneford Hospital in Leamington Spa and the Central Hospital in Warwick in the days when leading practitioners staffed voluntary hospitals. During the Second World War, he also worked in the Emergency Medical Service at Warwick Hospital. Cohen's link to the University of Birmingham continued when he was appointed as Honorary Lecturer and Senior Research fellow at the Dental School in a Dental History Unit which he founded and which was later supported by the Welcome Trust. In 1997, the library at the Dental School was renamed the Ronald Cohen Library in his honour.

He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, one of the first to be created a Tomes Medallist by the British Dental Association and the first recipient of the Lindsay Medal of the Lindsay Society for the History of Dentistry of which he was a Founder and later Honorary Member. He was also Honorary Member of the American Academy of the History of Dentistry and the Societe Francaise d'Histoire de l'Art Dentaire. At various times he held other offices including serving as President of the Birmingham Dental Students Society (about which he wrote a history), of the Central Counties Branch of the Birmingham Dental Association and of the Odontological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Cohen was a leading author in dental history and produced some 100 papers. To mark his 90th birthday in 1997, the Lindsay Society reprinted a selection of his major historical papers. Cohen also wrote the introduction to a facsimile edition of Charles Allen's 'Operator for the Teeth, 1685', the first dental book written in England and he edited 'The Advance of the Dental Profession', a history of the British Dental Association produced for its centenary. He also lectured to lay and professional audiences on dental history in Britain, France and the Netherlands as well as Ireland where for 21 years he was an extra-mural lecturer at Queen's University, Belfast. He gave the Menzies Campbell Lectures at the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of England and Edinburgh, was Wallis Lecturer at the Royal Society of Medicine and the Macgregor Lecturer in Birmingham.

Reference: Bonham's sale catalogue for 'The Collection of the late Ronald A. Cohen. Books, Prints and Related Objects Illustrative of the History of Dentistry and Teeth'. The sale took place on 10 December 2002.
Custodial HistoryRonald Cohen appears to have acquired these from booksellers over a period of more than 20 years. Information about the acquistion of one item, together with notes about a number of letters and some manuscript and typeascript transcripts can be found on the deposit file. Three items formerly mounted on a single sheet - /1, /12 & /15 - were clearly acquired together. The two letters from Samuel Adams Parker to W. Palethorpe were purchased with Parker's 'Remarks upon Artificial Teeth and upon the state of the mouth in which they should and should not be used, with a description of the material best suited to particular cases, and an appendix, etc.' (Birmingham, 1862).
AcquisitionThese letters were purchased at Bonham's auction of 'The Collection of the late Ronald A. Cohen. Books, Prints and Related Objects Illustrative of the History of Dentistry and Teeth' on December 2002, comprising lots 502 (part), 641 and 643
Related MaterialThe Special Collections Department holds a small archive of Cohen's correspondence, some manuscript and printed bibliographical notes, and other research materials principally relating to dental history US71