Bunker Hill, Paul Revere, and Forensic Dentistry

18 Jun

Yesterday was the 234th anniversary of the Revolutionary War Battle of Bunker Hill. Never mind that it actually took place on and around Breed’s Hill, we know it as Bunker Hill and the obelisk monument that commemorates it says so. One of the casualties of that seminal battle was Dr. Joseph Warren, who was buried, along with many of the other 140 Americans killed that day, near Breed’s Hill. However, Dr. Warren’s story didn’t end there.

Warren, Dr. J

Dr. Joseph Warren

Everyone knows of Paul Revere and his dramatic horseback ride that alerted the colonist of the approach of British forces. I’d bet many of you still remember, at least in part, Longfellow’s poem. Revere was also a gifted metal smith and engraver and had been schooled in the art of dentistry. One of his patients was his friend Dr. Warren, for whom he made an ivory and silver bridge.
Many months after the battle, Warren’s family wanted his body disinterred for a private burial. To do this Dr. Warren’s corpse had to be distinguished from all the others. In rides Paul Revere. A positive identification came when Revere recognized the dentures he had made for his friend. This was one of the first cases where a corpse was identified by dental techniques and many point to this as the origin of forensic dentistry.

Boston 1775 Blog

Biology On-Line Article

Paul Revere Wikipedia


5 responses to “Bunker Hill, Paul Revere, and Forensic Dentistry

  1. Jill James

    June 18, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    This was one of my favorite historical cases in Forensics for Dummies. It is so neat to know we’ve been trying to solve crimes forensically for centuries. Just with better results nowadays.


  2. Suzanne Adair

    June 19, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Doug, thanks for the tip on early forensic dentistry. Since my books are set during the Revolutionary War, I’m always looking for nuggets like that. Did you know that Paul Revere never completed his famous ride? He was one of three riders that night apprehended by the redcoats. His fellow rider escaped and is the one who warned the patriots. But Revere was detained with the other rider, and their horses were taken from them, and after both men endured several hours of interrogation, they were released (afoot). I guess Longfellow decided he could rhyme more with the word “Revere.” 🙂

    Suzanne Adair (


  3. Pat Marinelli

    June 19, 2009 at 5:13 am

    Wow! I wouldn’t have thought forensics went back that far. Great piece of information.


  4. Shay

    June 20, 2009 at 2:10 am


    I have a friend who writes historical mysteries, set in France during the late 1700’s/ early 1800’s. She researched and discovered information about the forerunner of the FBI and Scotland Yard. Her protagonist is an artist, who started out as a portrait artist, but when he loses all his money, he has to go to work as a forensic artist.



  5. Eduardo Prochazka

    March 6, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Thanks for a useful post. Love this website 🙂 Btw, your site looks a little wierd in opera browser. Works fine in firefox. Dentist Kent WA



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