Influential professor of dental health

Born: July 29, 1923;

Died: October 5, 2018

JAMES McEwen, who has died aged 95, was a highly regarded and influential professor of dental health and a former head of the department of dental health at Dundee University. He also held senior positions in the British Dental Association and was a former president of the British Society of Orthodontics

Known to everyone as Jimmy, he was was born in Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, and spent his school years in Crieff. He attended Glasgow University, originally to study veterinary surgery but opted to read dentistry instead. His student years were partly occupied in wartime night watch with the Clyde River Patrol. After a period of pre-NHS general practice in Dumbarton, his national service was in the army as a captain in the Royal Army Dental Corps, during which he was posted to Berlin, Dusseldorf and Luneberg. One of his patients during his time in Germany was Rudolph Hess.

On demobilisation he decided to specialise in orthodontics and trained under Professor Ballard at the Eastman Dental Hospital in London where one of his contemporaries was Philip Adams with whom he maintained a lifetime friendship.

A move to Edinburgh Dental School came in 1950 and, while there in 1953, he took the opportunity of a Fulbright Fellowship in paedodontics at the Guggenheim Dental School in New York. Before returning to Edinburgh in 1954 he travelled extensively in the United States to review the concepts and techniques at various dental schools.

In Edinburgh an interest in phonetics took him to the university department of phonetics where he met Marjorie, a languages graduate. They celebrated their diamond wedding in 2017. In 1956 he moved to head the department of orthodontics and children’s dentistry, Queens College Dundee,University of St Andrews, and in 1971 was appointed head of department of dental health, University of Dundee. An honorary orthodontic consultant, he remained a good hands-on clinician, well versed in earlier times in the fixed appliances of North America and the Friel springs of Ireland.

He served as president of the North of Scotland Branch of the British Dental Association, president of the British Society of Orthodontics, President of The Royal Odonto-Chirurgical Society of Scotland, and a was a life member of the European Orthodontic Society. He was a loyal diplomate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow where his life in dentistry began.

From 1976 to 1980 he served as chair of dental committee and dean of dentistry, University of Dundee.

He was a popular honorary vice-president of the Dundee Dental Students Society on several occasions.

As well as serving as an external examiner at British and foreign dental schools including Baghdad and Nairobi, he was a tireless member of many national council and committees.

He was first and foremost a family man. Marjorie and he had five children who all have successful careers. There are ten grandchildren and one great grand child. Marjorie survives him.

History was an abiding interest as well as music, mainly classical and operatic. Another passion was the Scottish hills. His dry sense if humour was never far from the surface. He was always a source of good advice, averse to insincerity, and was never given to shows of temperament. There are few who enjoy as much high regard as he did.