Lilian Lindsay

First British woman to qualify as a dentist and first female president of the British Dental Association

Lilian’s school teacher encouraged her to become a teacher, which was regarded as a more conventional career for a woman. When Lilian insisted on following her chosen career path of dentistry, the school teacher revoked Lilian’s scholarship.

Without the funds for school but determined in her plans, Lilian found a three-year apprenticeship in dentistry. Ambitious for more, she later registered as a dental student.

Lilian Lindsay
Courtesy of Lothian Health Services Archive, University of Edinburgh.
When she applied to the National Dental Hospital in London, the then Dean insisted on interviewing Lilian on the street. He was worried that her mere presence would distract his male students! Unsurprisingly, he refused to accept her as a student.

Scotland was more advanced than England in allowing women entry to university, so Lilian headed north and applied to the Edinburgh Dental School. To her delight, she was accepted on the course. Lilian was the only female student at the time but this did not hinder her success. She was awarded the Wilson medal for dental surgery and pathology and the medal for materia medica and therapeutics in 1894.

In a situation familiar to most of today’s graduates, Lilian had to re-pay the funds she had borrowed to attend university after she qualified in 1895. She returned to London and set up a dental practice with financial assistance from her uncle and a further loan.

It took her ten years to pay off her loans and after this she returned to Edinburgh. She married Robert Lindsey, who she had met ten years earlier at dental school. They practiced dentistry together at 2 Brandon Street, Edinburgh.


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