Bartholomew Ruspini was born in Italy in 1728 and went on to become the founder of the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth.
At the age of 30 he qualified as a surgeon and decided to specialise in dentistry. It is likely that he completed his training in Paris, the centre for training in this field.
At this time dentistry was not perceived as a skilled profession, as it was usually practised on the side by blacksmiths, hairdressers and, frequently, charlatans.
Up until the 14th century most believed that small worms caused tooth decay, living within the tooth and eating it away from the inside.
This belief was only disproved in the 18th century by Pierre Fauchard, often regarded as the father of modern dentistry, who with the aid of a microscope asserted that sugar and acid - not worms - were responsible for tooth decay.
It is unclear when Ruspini first came to England but upon his arrival he styled himself as an Italian surgeon to separate himself from the negative connotations often attributed to his profession.
So confident was he of his techniques that he made the first consultation free of charge and no payment was required until the patient had been cured.
In 1759, Ruspini put himself forward as a candidate for initiation into a Masonic lodge.
Freemasonry had been growing in popularity for some time. It is unclear when the movement was formed but most agree that it started in the Middle Ages. It is one of the world’s largest non-religious charitable organisations, and teaches self-knowledge through participation in a series of ceremonies.
At the time when Ruspini was wanting to join, Freemasonry was spreading throughout Europe and the American Colonies. George Washington was a Mason and Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania.
Ruspini was rejected on his first application but, upon applying again in 1762, he was accepted into the Burning Bush Lodge in Bristol.
In 1768 Ruspini published his most famous work, a Treatise on Teeth. He wrote about many dentistry issues that today are common knowledge, including the effect of too much sugar on teeth, but he also wrote that sleeping with your head uncovered would result in dental disease.
By 1777 Ruspini was established enough within Masonic society to be a founder member of a new lodge, the Lodge of the Nine Muses. This gained many Italian members which suggests that Ruspini was keen to help fellow migrants from Italy.
Ruspini was keen to ensure that the poor of London should not be disadvantaged, a belief encouraged by the teachings of Freemasonry, and he arranged that his tooth powder should be available free from a doctor’s house in London.
He was also anxious to help the children of Masons who had died or were unable to support their families, and he did this by setting up the Royal Masonic School for Girls to provide education for the daughters of Masons.
The school opened in 1788 with just 15 pupils. It was first located in Somers Place, East London, and moved twice within London until it finally settled in Rickmansworth Park in 1934.
Many of its pupils spent their lunch breaks practising Drill, a form of calisthenics to music. This tradition is still practised today.
Ruspini was married twice in his life and altogether had nine children.
He died at his home in Pall Mall in 1813, aged 85.
Freemasonry has been dogged by conspiracy theories and, during the Holocaust, it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were killed under the Nazi regime as they were believed to be in league with Jewish people.
Today Ruspini’s statue stands at the Royal Masonic School for Girls, which no longer has any links with Freemasonry. However, Ruspini’s birthday on March 25 is still celebrated as Ruspini Day.
In 2017 the United Grand Lodge of England, the largest Masonic group in England, will celebrate its 300th anniversary.