Compiled by Dr. Bertus van Rensburg

The Dental Association is the custodian of Continued Education of the dental profession. Continued education is done by means of publication of the Dental Journal, organizing dental congresses and arranging lecture courses for the members of the dental profession.

A group of leading figures in the Association founded a special group of the Association in July 1970 during a lecture course presented by Dr. Lum Martone, an expert in the field of prosthetic dentistry. This special group became known as the Prosthodontic Society of South Africa (PROSSA). The aim of PROSSA is to promote and disseminate knowledge of fixed and removable prosthodontics to all dental practitioners.

There were only two registers for dental specialists in 1970, namely in Orthodontics and Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgery. Certain members of PROSSA were doing work of high quality and standard. A consensus was reached amongst certain people such as Professors Hossack, Lewin, Van Reenen and others to lobby and move for the creation of a specialty in Prosthodontics. The Deans of the Dental Faculties, especially Prof. C J Dreyer, supported this proposal. The speciality was established during 1972.

A few practitioners were able to register as specialists under the so-called ”Grand father” clause because they were regarded as dentists with exceptional knowledge and experience in the field of Prosthodontics. Their peers also held them in high esteem.

The then SAMDC ruled that anybody else would only be admitted to the specialist register after the completion of a recognized postgraduate course in prosthodontics. Professor Arthur Lewin took care of the first five postgraduate students at Wits whilst Profs F X Prins and Eddie Levinson took care of the first three postgraduate students at the University of Pretoria.

The result was a group of Prosthodontists carried on with their work as individuals with no group to represent them. Prof. J C Nel with Dr. W Meyerowitz and others met to create an organization that could take care of the needs of the Prosthodontists. These needs were to arrange study group meetings, liaise with the Dental Association regarding fees etc. A schedule of fees and codes for various procedures could still be established and published on an annual basis in the Journal. This organization is known as: –
“The Academy of Prosthodontics (South Africa)” (APSA)

The members of the first executive committee of APSA elected at the founding meeting of APSA in 1976 were: –
Prof. J C Nel, President,
Dr. W Meyerowitz, President Elect
Dr. E Gottlieb, Secretary / Treasurer
Drs. Heydt and Collis as additional members.


APSA Founding Members 1977


APSA Founding Members 1989

Photograph of Members at APSA, AGM 1989

Back Row (L to R) Drs. R Omerod, T Oostuizen, Prof. P Potgieter,
Drs. J Collis, T Grave, G Powter

Middle Row (L to R) Prof.L Carr, Dr. D Hayden- Smith, Prof. L H Becker,
Dr. C Hamman, Profs. A Lewin. J F van Reenen,
Dr D Barnes, Profs. J Cohen, D Naude

Front Row (L to R) Prof M Baikie, Dr. L Breitz (Secr / Treasurer)
Profs J C Nel (Pres.) L B van Rensburg, (Pres Elect)
Drs. H Reyneke, N Veres

Tribute to and Profile of Professor Arthur Lewin

As seen through the eyes of Dr B Van Rensburg, after 42 years

Arthur LewinProf. Arthur Lewin can be regarded as the doyen of fixed prosthodontics in South Africa. He has an extremely perceptive mind and he has the ability to summarize any situation rapidly and can employ what he has learned.

He was born in Oudtshoorn. His father was educated in Germany as an industrial chemist, whilst his mother came from Swellendam. Arthur the youngest child in the family was full of life and sports and often in trouble through his pranks. He was eventually sent to a Marist Brother’s in Uitenhage so that the Brothers could teach him how to behave and to learn all about discipline.

Arthur enrolled in the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of the Witwatersrand after he matriculated. His peers do not remember him for his academic prowess but rather as the cheerleader of the Wits students at inter-varsity meetings against Tukkies for two different years. Prof. Phillip Tobias told him when he joined the Senate of Wits that he would never have thought a cheerleader would ever have a seat in the Senate.

Arthur met a lovely, highly intelligent young lady, from Klerksdorp in his final year of study. She was Joy Owsianic. They got married in December 1949. This marriage lasted for more than 60 years when she passed away after a long illness.

Arthur joined a dental practice in Klerksdorp after he qualified. This gave him the chance to become a real wet fingered dentist. They had branch practices throughout the Northwest province. He used to visit the outlying areas when there were cattle auctions in the towns. These branch practices consisted mainly of extractions and dentures. Impressions and bites were taken the same day. The dentures were completed in Klerksdorp and sent off by post. A Joseph Rodger’s penknife was placed in the box with the dentures. The idea of the penknife was to provide the proud owner of the new dentures with a tool to ease the denture where it was hurting.

He became an avid golfer. This hobby was curtailed because of a knee operation. His changed this hobby of golf to that of a radio-ham. He made contact with many people but one special contact was a famed dentist named Stan Vogel in Los Angeles. Stan used to attend courses during some weekends. He used to record the lectures and called Arthur Monday evenings, SA time. He told Arthur where he was and transmitted the lecture over the airwaves to Klerksdorp. This led to Stan urging him to come to Los Angeles to meet Peter K. Thomas and others so that he could improve his knowledge of occlusion and gnathology by attending the courses that Peter Thomas had offered. He went over met up with Peter Thomas, Charles Stuart, Harvey Stallard and B B McCullum to become one of their followers. He came back full of knowledge and ideas plus a bag of articulators on his back, as Prof. Sheppard form Wits once said.

Dr. Lewin urged his colleagues to obtain mouth records by using a face-bow, check bites, hinge-axis registrations and especially the pantograph. Arthur trained his technicians in the skills of gnathology. He left Klerksdorp a few years after his return form LA and relocated to Johannesburg. The reason for this move was that many of his patients were from Johannesburg and they convinced him to move. He established a very successful practice in Lancet Hall with one technician Cliff Prew who worked with him for many years. He and Cliff moved to the Rosebank Clinic with the patients after a few years.

Arthur became friendly with Prof. C J Dreyer who became Dean of the faculty at Wits. Dreyer introduced him to dental research, which he enjoyed. There was no head of the Department of Restorative Dentistry and Prof. Dreyer invited him to become head of the department. He accepted the offer during 1969 but retained the right to limited private practice. He tutored the first graduate student in 1969 and started with the next group in 1970. He stressed the importance of gnathology and insisted that the graduate students had to plan, design and do the wax-ups of the cases they were treating, themselves.

He remained a radio-ham and made contact with another radio-ham called Jasper, whom he spoke to in the past. Jasper told him he was doing research at the then “Jan Smuts” airport to determine how the earth and tarmac deforms when a large plane lands. This helped the engineers to design and calculate the strength required for the tarmac. Arthur asked him how it has been done. The answer was by means of strain gauges. Arthur’s reply was if you can do that, then I can use the same type of instruments but just much smaller to calculate how a tooth deforms during mastication. Many hours went into this research. Tests were also done when a tooth was dehydrated and when water was added to it. The idea was to compare the distortion of a neurologically vital tooth to that of a non-vital one.

His next project was the invention of the Electro-gnathograph. This instrument uses Hall effect transducers to calculate the alteration of the magnetic strength of a small magnet attached to the mid-incisor point of the mandible. Arthur built the prototype of this device himself plus another design with the help Engineer Nicol from Siemens.
This instrument was eventually produced and distributed by Siemens AG and now by Bio Research in Milwaukee. All of the graduate students under him had to use this device for the recording of unconstrained jaw movements or jaw movements with as little constraint as possible, on the patients thy were treating.

Arthur is still involved in an advisory capacity with the recording of jaw movements but it includes Electro-myography as well. His friend, Jim Booth from Montana is doing clinical research work now.

Professor Lewin had to retire, according to the rules of the University, as head of the Department of Restorative Dentistry when he turned 65. That is about 20 years ago. He had a further 15 years as a Professorial Research Fellowship at the dental school. The students, especially the graduate students at Wits unfortunately lost out on his expertise and zest for research and the guidance that he could give to them.

Prof. Lewin published numerous papers and lectured throughout the world.

I hope that I was able to demonstrate in this short tribute, that Professor Arthur Lewin can be regarded as the doyen or a great explorer in the field of prosthodontics in South Africa.

I salute Arthur Lewin for his achievements. I regard myself extremely fortunate to have been closely associated with him for more than 42 years.

Read more about APSA: