LINDSAY, Lilian (1871-1960)
Plaque erected in 2019 by English Heritage at 23 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 0XG, London Borough of Camden
LILIAN LINDSAY 1871-1960 The First Woman Dentist to Qualify in Britain lived here
Plaque was originally erected at 3 Hungerford Road in Islington in 2013, but was moved to present address in 2019 due to the demolition of the Hungerford Road site
Lilian Lindsay was the first British woman to qualify as a dentist and the first person in Britain to write at length about the history of her chosen profession. She is commemorated with a blue plaque at 23 Russell Square in Bloomsbury, where she lived for 15 years.
Lilian Murray – as she was then – was educated locally at Camden School for Girls. She won a scholarship to study at the North London Collegiate School, where her headmistress was Frances Mary Buss. She defied Buss’s advice to train as a teacher for the deaf and dumb and decided instead to become a dentist.
She had not chosen an easy career path. The Royal College of Surgeons refused to admit women to its medical courses, and when she applied to study at the National Dental Hospital in London, she was interviewed on the pavement outside – women were not allowed to enter the building. Her application was rejected.
Thwarted in England, she left in 1892 to study at Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School. It was there that she met her future husband, Robert Lindsay, a fellow student. Qualifying with honours in 1895, she returned to London to set up her commercially successful dental practice at 69 Hornsey Rise in Upper Holloway – a bus ride from her childhood home. After she and Robert were married in 1905 – at the local church, St Luke’s, in Hillmarton Road – she moved to Edinburgh to set up in practice with her husband.
23 RUSSELL SQUARE
In 1920 the Lindsays retired from dental practice and moved back to London. They moved into a flat above the headquarters of British Dental Association (BDA) at 23 Russell Square, where they stayed for 15 years. Lilian took a new role as Honorary Librarian at the BDA and gathered together the country’s first dental library. The library became a resource for both students and practitioners and over the next 30 years she expanded it from an initial bequest of 350 works to over 10,000 volumes.
At the same time Lindsay became the first dentist in Britain to take a serious interest in the history of dentistry, writing over 50 journal articles and a book, A Short History of Dentistry (1933), and in 1946 publishing the first English language translation of the classic text by Pierre Fauchard, Le Chirurgien Dentiste (‘The Dental Surgeon’). Her devotion to her research can be measured by her decision to remain in London during the Blitz, saying she could not work away from the library.
Lindsay became the first female President of the BDA in 1946, and in the same year was awarded an OBE. She spent her final years in Orford, Suffolk, and died in 1960 at the age of 88.