S. FRANCIS FISH was one of the men of vision who played a part in bringing about the expansion of, and fundamental changes in, our dental schools - institutions which in the UK are integrated in various degrees with medical schools. These changes took the schools from their rather old-fashioned and creaky state before the Second World War into educational centres well able to hold their own as integral components of universities, by virtue of their research; and as centres which provide a model for small-group teaching of a profession in which manual skills play a dominant part.
An essential feature of the changes was the acquisition of frameworks of full-time, and therefore "professional", teachers who began to create research bases within their departments. The changes were led largely by individuals who had some pre-war experience of teaching, but soon a body of new enthusiastic graduates became available to help the expanding process. Francis Fish was one of those who joined the London Hospital Dental School in Whitechapel, having qualified there in 1940.
After serving in the Army Dental Corps during the war, Fish spent a few years in private practice, before joining the staff of the London Dental School in 1950 as a part-time assistant. He became attracted by full-time teaching in which the intellectual challenges of research were beginning to be an essential ingredient and, that same year, was appointed a lecturer in the Department of Dental Prosthetics, concerned with artificial substitutes for dentitions lost through disease or accident.
In 1956, Fish became Head of the Department and began to make his mark upon it, first by appointing as a member of his staff a scientist with experience in the properties of materials. This led to what became a pioneering semi-independent Department of Material Science in Dentistry.
In the clinical treatment his department was responsible for, Fish set an example in courteous handling of the wide variety of patients - the population of Whitechapel - ranging from Asian immigrants to members of university staff. He showed an awareness of the psychological aspects of denture-wearing which became a characteristic of his staff. A central theme of his teaching, which influenced all those who worked under him, was to demonstrate to clinical students the relevance to clinical problems in his field of what they had learned about anatomy and physiology in the pre- clinical period. …