Who was Australia’s first dentist?

Australia's First Dentist

We believe Joseph Hyams was probably Australia’s first dentist. He was  born in London in 1789. In 1813 he was sentenced at the Old Bailey and arrived in Sydney a year later. By December, 1814 he was in practice as a dentist. His advertisement in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser read “JOSEPH HYAMS, Dentist, 31, Pitt-street, respectfully offers his Services to the Public in the Line of his Profession-Scaling, cleaning, and drawing the Tooth, when necessary, without causing pain; and supplying the vacancy with others of pure Ivory.- Also, Corns extracted with ease and safety.- Attendance at home or abroad; and Charges very moderate.”

Shortly after came Simon Lear who was born in Amsterdam in 1787. He was convicted at Plymouth in August, 1816, he arrived in Australia in April, 1817. In 1818, we find him advertising in the “Sydney Gazette”: “Simon Lear, Dentist and Corn Operator, No. 7, Castlereagh-street, respectfully informs the Public at large, that he makes a perfect Cure of Corns without Pain. N. B.,-Artificial Teeth made in a most perfect manner, and the Teeth cleansed from the Scurvy and other Disorders, and brought to a beautiful white”

On July 29, 1820 the “Sydney Gazette” published an article which had been prompted by Australia’s first medical board to bring peoples attention to the fact that Hyams and Lear were not properly trained and therefore unqualified to practice as physicians and surgeons.

Hyams went back to a life of petty crime and was sent to Moreton Bay in 1827. He returned to Sydney in 1834 and became ranger of the racecourse in Hyde Park but eventually had another run in with the law and in 1843 was sent to Van Diemen’s Land, where he died within a year.

Lear apparently continued to practice as a dentist as well as an oculist, and sold “exotic snuff” as a remedy for headaches.

Australia’s First Female Dentist

Annie Praed was born in England in 1873.  By 1899 she was practicing as a dentist and on 15 January 1901 registered under the Dentists’ Act of 1900.

In March 1901 Annie Praed enrolled in the first dentistry courses offered at the University of Sydney. She qualified as a licentiate of dental surgery in 1904 and graduated B.D.S. in 1906, topping her year. In 1906-10 she worked as assistant to Dr W. S. Hinder in Macquarie Street. In 1914 she opened a practice with a fellow student Margaret Barnes and then in 1921 started a solo practice later specialising in prosthodontics (learn more).

Tasmania’s First Dentist

Tasmania’s first dentist was Leonard Rodway. He was born in 1856 and trained as a dentist in London. He arrived in Hobart in 1880 and by 1884 had helped establish Tasmania’s first Dentists Act.  He practiced in Hobart until 1923, acting as honorary dental surgeon at Hobart General Hospital from 1890 until 1922. 

Although Rodway had an accomplished dental career he is chiefly remembered for his contributions to the study of Tasmanian botany. He was honorary government botanist from 1896 until 1932. His “The Tasmanian Flora” became a standard reference for forty years. He was the University’s first lecturer in botany (1923-29); the Director of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (1928-32), and founder of the Tasmanian Herbarium (1928-32).