Blue Plaque

A Blue Plaque was unveiled at the Dental Schoolm to celebrate the pioneering work of Harold Round (a University of Birmingham alumnus) and his colleague Arthur Parrott. Both men were instrumental in developing an early version of the airbag to prevent impact jaw fractures during the First World War. The year 2019 marks 100 years since they filed the idea for the airbag with the U.S. patent office. To mark the occasion the School held a special showcase event and invited local and national guests to the unveiling. Professor Iain Chapple welcomed everyone to the event and gave an overview of the innovations in dentistry that still continue at the University of Birmingham a century later.

Professor Jonathan Reinarz in front of the poster display.

Professor Jonathan Reinarz the Director of The History of Medicine Unit gave a fascinating lecture on “Accidental histories: from dental plaque to a blue plaque”.

Round and Parrott worked in the Jaw and Facial Injuries led by Professor William Billington. Whilst much is known about Prof Billington, history does not immediately highlight the achievements of both Round and Parrott who were just names in the team. A chance conversation at a local medical dinner (Sankey Club) intrigued Prof Reinarz. He undertook some historical investigations and what he found surprised him. Round and Parott invited an early version of the Air Bag. Their invention was lodged with the US patent office and to this day every leading car manufacturer mentions this patent in their own air bag mechanisms. Prof Reinharz suggested that the reason that the two men did not get recognition in this country is that many people thought they came from Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. It is only fitting that the work has been recognised through the Blue Plaque event.

Professor Reinarz discussing the work of Round and Parrott

Professor Reinarz came into contact with a living descendant of Harold Round who lives in Australia. The family in Australia donated many dentally related items of Harold Round. One was a specially designed stent for the treatment of cancer related illnesses in the mouth. The great nephew of Harold Round who is a retired dentist gave a moving pre-recorded message. Following this the Blue Plaque was unveiled and people adjourned to the foyer to view the plaque and other materials that were on display about the work of Round and Parrott.

Examples of instruments donated by the Round family
A diagram from the patent for the Air Cushion – a forerunner of the airbag
The menu from the 1908 Annual Dinner of the Dental Students Society
(donated by the Round family)