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Paul Revere and Forensic Dentistry

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Journal Article - Open Access

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National Museum of Health and Medicine, J-9 DHA Silver Spring United States

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Listen my children and you shall hear. Generations of American children learned to recite these words from Longfellows famous poem.1 What most did not learn, however, is that the silversmith Paul Revere also practiced dentistry. During the early morning of April 19, 1775, Revere and William Dawes were sent by Dr. Joseph Warren to warn the patriots at Lexington and Concord that the British garrison stationed in Boston was about to raid the rebel munitions stored at Concord. Warren apparently had an inside informer, and the colonials were able to remove the munitions in advance of the British Regulars arrival.2 The Harvard-trained Dr. Warren3 was a wanted man as he had become a major voice of resistance to British rule.4 Although Joseph Warren was gifted intellectually, he did not enjoy the good fortune of durable teeth, and Revere fashioned ivory false teeth for his friend. On that fateful day of June 17, 1775, newly commissioned Major General Joseph Warren met his demise at Bunker Hill during the British third frontal assault3 on the redoubt. Now Joseph Warren was dead at the age of thirty-four, shot through the face, his body horribly mutilated by British bayonets.6 He was buried in a shallow grave by British Captain WalterSloane Laurie, who stated that he stuffed the scoundrel with another rebel into one hole.7 When the British left Boston 9 months later, two of Warrens brothers, along with Paul Revere, found the unmarked grave and exhumed General Warrens body, which was unrecognizable. Revere, however, was able to identify Warrens remains by the wiring that he himself had used to fasten Warrens false teeth. This was the first forensic dental identification of a military service member ever performed in this country. Dental tools attributed to Paul Revere Fig. 1 are on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

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  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Humanities and History

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