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William John Tuckfield (1881–1969)

by H. F. Atkinson

This article was published:

William John Tuckfield (1881-1969), dentist and academic, was born on 15 December 1881 at Belfast (Port Fairy), Victoria, seventh child of Rev. James William Tuckfield, Wesleyan minister, and his wife Mary Ann, née Patterson, both Australian born. His grandfather Rev. Francis Tuckfield had established the Buntingdale Mission for Aborigines near Geelong in 1838. 'Tucky', as William was known, received the diploma of the Australian College of Dentistry and was registered as a dentist in 1902 by the Dental Board of Victoria. On 12 April 1911 at St Matthew's Anglican Church, Prahran, he married Marcella Mabel Monckton. He served in the Australian Army Medical Corps (Dental Services) in 1915-18, becoming honorary captain in July 1917.

Elected a member of the faculty of dental science, University of Melbourne, in 1908, he was dean in 1922-23; he retired in 1959, having been acting professor of dental prosthetics since 1949. He edited the Australian Journal of Dentistry from 1914 to 1956 when he became editor emeritus of the new Australian Dental Journal. His editorials, articles and letters, devoted to the support of the profession, revealed an uncompromising approach that bore testimony to his missionary forebears. With boundless mental and physical energy, he worked seven days a week in private and hospital practice, teaching, editing and engaging in dental politics. He was president of the Odontological Society of Victoria (1910), the Alumni Society of the Australian College of Dentistry (1921) and the Australian Dental Association (1939-41).

Chairman and president of the Australian College of Dentistry and the Dental Hospital in 1915-16, he still worked there at the age of 72 as building officer. His lifelong interest in visual aids had developed from the magic lantern through the deep focus camera to colour cinematography in which he made a significant contribution to clinical teaching. He retired in 1963 and resigned from the council in 1967.

An outstanding clinician, Tuckfield had a high level of technical skill which was communicated in his only book, Full Denture Technique (Melbourne, 1944). Although he showed no interest in working for higher qualifications either through study or research, he never failed to help others to succeed. His achievements were recognized by the award of honorary degrees from the Northwestern University, United States of America (D.Sc., 1925) and the University of Melbourne (D.D.Sc., 1944; LL.D., 1963), and by an honorary fellowship in dental surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons, London (1948).

'Tucky' had an immense zest for life. In his earlier years he was a keen pioneer motorist and an amateur golfer. In spite of his strict upbringing, he was a free-thinker. In 1967 he went to live with a son in Brisbane where he died on 19 December 1969 and was cremated. Both his sons had served as flying officers in World War II; the younger was killed in action. Tuckfield's portrait by William Dargie is at the Royal Dental Hospital, Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Dental Journal, Feb 1970
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, 26, no 1, Mar 1970
  • Australian College of Dentistry minutes, 1897-1967, and Melbourne Dental Hospital minutes, 1890-1967, and Faculty of Dental Science, University of Melbourne minutes, 1908-1959 (Dental Faculty Library, Royal Dental Hospital, Melbourne).

Citation details

H. F. Atkinson, 'Tuckfield, William John (1881–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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