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Harold Round (standing) and his colleague Arthur Parrott (seated)

A new ‘blue plaque’ was unveiled earlier this year as part of the University of Birmingham's history trail, which celebrates the work of two innovative dentists whose inventions have saved thousands of lives.   

The plaque pays homage to University of Birmingham alumnus Harold Round and his colleague Arthur Parrott, who were both instrumental in developing an early version of the airbag to prevent impact jaw fractures during the First World War. 

This year marks 100 years since they filed the patent for the airbag. To mark this occasion, a blue plaque was unveiled at a special event that was held at the University’s School of Dentistry on Monday 18 March. The event was open to the public and showcased both Round and Parrott’s work, while also featuring other innovations in dentistry discovered at the University of Birmingham.

The event included a presentation on the history of dentistry by Jonathan Reinarz, University of Birmingham Professor of the History of Medicine. Guests were also able to view some historical dental instruments and experience first-hand how challenging dentistry has been across the ages. A tour of Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry was also offered for guests to view the state of the art facility. 

Professor Iain Chapple, Head of the University of Birmingham’s School of Dentistry, said: “Since its earliest days, the University of Birmingham has been a home to innovative pioneers who have effected change in the world we live. 

“The University’s Blue Plaque Trail, modelled on schemes adopted in many British cities, celebrates their ground-breaking achievements and we are delighted that two such accomplished pioneers in dentistry will now be honoured as part of this trail. 

“We hope this latest blue plaque will inspire those who pass by and will encourage continued innovation and achievement in the future.” 

The blue plaques around the campus serve as reminders of the immense accomplishments of the men and women who have worked at the University. 

Since it received its Royal Charter in 1900, the University of Birmingham has been responsible for an immense number of innovations, inventions and breakthroughs, including the creation of the Cavity Magnetron which made possible both radar and microwave ovens and changed the world as we knew it. 

  • The feasibility of the atomic bomb, secrets of particle physics, mathematical analysis of Bessel functions, and the mass of the Earth were all discovered at the University, while the work of the University’s geologists has helped us to understand climate change and the formation of mountain belts
  • Health and life expectancy throughout the world has been improved through the work of the University of Birmingham, with developments such as the variable-rate heart pacemaker, pioneering experiments in skin grafting, and the synthesis of Vitamin C
  • Social policy improvement, investigation into economic reform and innovative town planning involving individuals such as Margery Fry, Sir William Ashley, Francois Lafitte and John Sutton Nettlefold have also greatly enhanced the quality of life worldwide
  • Composers, musicians and writers including Sir Edward Elgar, Louis MacNeice and David Lodge, have taught at the University of Birmingham, while Sir Granville Bantock helped found the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra