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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lawrence, Gordon Ord (1896–1960)

by Geoffrey W. Page

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Gordon Ord Lawrence (1896-1960), dentist, was born on 11 November 1896 at Geraldton, Western Australia, tenth child of William Chipper Lawrence, police inspector, and his wife Jane Charlotte, née Howell. He was educated in Western Australia and was apprenticed for eighteen months to the leading Perth dentist James Alexander Wright before enlisting in August 1916 in the Australian Imperial Force as a private in the Dental Corps. Remaining in Australia, next April he was promoted staff sergeant; however, he was discharged from the A.I.F. in June, having re-enlisted for home service. He entered the dental school of the University of Melbourne in 1919 (B.D.Sc., 1922). Lawrence registered with the Dental Board of South Australia in 1925 and was a dental house surgeon at the (Royal) Adelaide Hospital for three years. From 1927 he also practised at suburban Largs Bay and, from 1937, at Semaphore. At the University of Adelaide he was an instructor in prosthetic dentistry from 1936 and thereafter divided his interests between his practice and university teaching; from 1930 he was also an honorary dental surgeon at the Adelaide Hospital. On 9 February 1929 at Unley Lawrence had married Alice Eileen Dobson, secretary; they had no children.

He was a tall, dark, impressive man, gentle and with an inquiring and inventive mind. A perfectionist, he contributed substantially to dental research and education in South Australia; his insistence upon the highest standards of clinical dentistry is remembered by his students and colleagues. His original work (1938-40) included the Lawrence matrix, an ingenious instrument for the improved restoration and contour of compound cavities, which received world acclaim. At a time when there were few Australian studies of dental materials, and when wartime shortages and quality variation in raw materials were a problem, Lawrence did basic work on impression pastes and reversible agar gels. He was awarded a doctorate of dental science by the University of Adelaide in 1945 for a thesis on these matters and other studies, including the hot oil sterilization of dental handpieces. Lawrence loved working with his hands; his hobby was the making of fine gold jewellery.

Lawrence died suddenly of myocardial infarction at Memorial Hospital, North Adelaide, on 6 August 1960 and was cremated. He was survived by his wife (d.1967) who was inconsolable; in her will she endowed the G. O. Lawrence scholarship for postgraduate studies in conservative dentistry.

Select Bibliography

  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 9 Aug 1960.

Citation details

Geoffrey W. Page, 'Lawrence, Gordon Ord (1896–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 19 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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