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Highest international honour for orthodontics pioneer

Friday, 1 June 2007

A former University of Adelaide academic who revolutionised orthodontics has been awarded dentistry's highest international honour.

Dr P Raymond Begg has become only the 17th person - and the first Australian - to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Paris-based Pierre Fauchard Academy (PFA).

Dr Begg, who died in 1983, lectured in the University of Adelaide's Dental School for 38 years while also working in private practice. During that time he developed both a new philosophy for diagnosing orthodontic problems and a new mechanical system for moving teeth.

Permanent displays dedicated to the "Begg technique" can be found in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, the Library of the American Dental Association in Chicago and the PR Begg Museum at the University of Adelaide.

The PFA's Australasian Section will host a function in the museum tonight to celebrate Dr Begg's induction. A formal ceremony will be held in Paris on 12 June.

"This is a significant honour as the Hall of Fame celebrates the highest achievers in all fields of dentistry, not just orthodontics. Dr Begg has been ranked among the very best," said the PFA's International Trustee for Australasia, Dr Jonathan Rogers. "His ideas were at the cutting edge and the techniques he developed are still relevant today. At the time there were many critics who frowned on his innovative ideas but science and time proved him right."

Born in a tent in the Western Australian goldfields but raised in Adelaide, "Tick" Begg, as he was known, planned a career in medicine before noticing the real need for people to have their "crooked teeth" corrected. He studied in Melbourne then worked in California before returning to South Australia.

He was awarded a Doctorate of Dental Science by the University of Adelaide in 1935 and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1981. The PR Begg Chair of Orthodontics at the University was named in his honour.

Orthodontics was Dr Begg's passion and he continued to work and consult long after his formal retirement. He registered his last patent in 1982, at the age of 84.

There will be a second Australian connection at the Paris induction ceremony; the International President of the PFA is an Australian, Dr William Winspear. Plaques will be presented to Dr Begg's family and to the University of Adelaide.

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