ATKINSON, DR. WILLIAM HENRY (23 Jan. 1815-2 April 1891), an early Cleveland dentist, was a pioneer in dental surgery and the first president of the American Dental Association.
Born in Newtown, PA. to David and Mary (Margerum) Atkinson, William worked as a farmhand and tailor's apprentice. He began studying medicine in 1840 with Dr. William Woodruff in Meadville, PA. Atkinson received his M.D. from Willoughby University (1847), and an honorary D.D.S. degree from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery (1859).
Atkinson practiced first in Meadville before moving to Norwalk, Ohio, where a travelling dentist inspired him to choose dentistry as a profession.
When Atkinson came to Cleveland in 1853, he was the first dentist to demand a higher standard of fees for dental surgery and place his services on the time basis. He is credited with a number of important methods used in dentistry. He reintroduced the hand mallet to condense gold fillings and designed new instruments to build contour fillings.
A student of microscopy and the natural sciences, Atkinson was a tireless researcher and prolific writer who contributed substantially to dental literature. In 1857 Atkinson was present at the organizational meeting of the Northern Ohio Dental Association. In 1860 Atkinson was elected as the first president of the American Dental Association at the first regular meeting in Washington where the constitution and bylaws were adopted.
Atkinson married Martha Woodruff on 17 May 1840. They had eight children. Atkinson moved his practice to New York City in 1861. He died there and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.