CDE: [The Dean’s Speaker Series] The Rise of Microbiology in the 19th Century

May, 2020
12:00 PM-01:00 PM

Virtually via BlueJeans

Time: 12:00 – 1:00 pm
Registration Fee: Free; Registration is required for CE credit.
CE Credits: 1.0 lecture credits


There was a time in history when infectious diseases were thought to have emerged spontaneously. Only in the middle of the 19th century do we see the emergence of microbiology. There was no concept of pathogens that can cause systemic or oral disease, including dental caries or periodontal disease. Imagine being a dental patient 500 years ago. If one had a dental infection, the “tooth worm” had to be fumigated with henbane and the tooth extracted by a tooth-drawer in a public place. One hoped that the right tooth and nothing but the tooth would be removed. No anesthesia, no sterility, no running water, no proper instruments, no understanding of the nature of the infection. That was the level of professional ignorance. Then, in the middle of the 19th century a Hungarian physician, Ignaz Semmelweis, working in Vienna stumbled upon the answer by looking at scientific evidence. Followed by scientists like Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch Joseph Lister, and Willoughby Miller. Their story changed the course of medical history will be the focus of this presentation.


  • To demonstrate that historical perspective of general and oral health is key in becoming a good healthcare provider
  • Understand that we all “stand on the shoulders of giants” when it comes to making progress
  • Have an appreciation of historical discoveries and the sacrifices many scientists and healthcare providers have made, including the current coronavirus pandemic.


Dr. Andrew I. Spielman is Professor at the Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology and Former Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at New York University College of Dentistry. He received his D.M.D. degree from Romania (1974), Master’s (1985) and Ph. D. in Biochemistry (1988) from University of Toronto, Canada, his certificate in Maxillofacial Surgery from the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion), School of Medicine, Israel (1981), a postdoctoral education at Monell Center, Philadelphia (neuroscience of taste, 1989), and a Certificate in History of Medicine (on-line, non-credit) from Oxford University, UK (2018). He has been a faculty at New York University College of Dentistry since 1989 teaching cell biology and biochemistry as well as integration of clinical with basic sciences. Author of over 130 publications, coeditor of book on chemosensory cell biology and the author of a recently published two-volume commemorative 150-Year History of NYU College of Dentistry. He is recipient of 3 teaching awards, one from NYU and two from ADEA. He is member of national/ international editorial/advisory boards, founding member of the Committee on Integrated National Board Examination in the US and former Chair of the Joint Commission on the National Dental Board Examinations. Has served as CODA curriculum consultant for the past 18 years and worked as a consultant with numerous US dental schools on curricular integration efforts in anticipation of the INBDE. He has a keen interest in History of Medicine and Dentistry, runs a full-semester elective course on the subject at NYU and was recently named Director of the Bernard Weinberger Rare Book Library at NYU College of Dentistry. He is currently working on an Encyclopaedia of History of Dentistry with an anticipated publication date of 2022.

University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine is an ADA CERP Recognized Provider. ADA CERP is a service of the American Dental Association to assist dental professionals in identifying quality providers of continuing dental education. ADA CERP does not approve or endorse individual courses or instructors, nor does it imply acceptance of credit hours by boards of dentistry.

University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine designates this activity for 1.0 continuing education credits.