Born on December 24th, 1890 in Bardhanpara, East Bengal, India, Dr. Rafiuddin Ahmed is remembered as the Father of Modern Dentistry in India. He was born to Maulvi Safiuddin Ahmed, who worked as a Deputy Collector and mother Faizunnesha. He was the second child amongst his four brothers and one sister.
As a young boy, Rafiuddin was sensitive, imaginative and intelligent. He had a strong will and determination that fuelled his idea of not restricting himself to the limitations imposed by the society then. He was brought up in a liberal and moderately affluent home. He was sent to Dhaka Madrasa, now Collegiate School to complete his education and in 1906, at the age of sixteen, he sat for the Entrance Examination.
Soon after, he made plans to visit Singapore and Hong Kong. Since he did not have the required amount of money to board the ship, he decided to pay the cost of the trip with his labour. He luckily found British India steamship S.S. Dilwara bound for Singapore and Hong Kong. On his return, his father wanted him to study at the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh (which elevated later into Muslim University in 1920). However, Rafiuddin was not very keen on studying at the Aligarh Muslim University.
After the passing away of his father, Rafiuddin left Calcutta in 1909 for Bombay. He travelled from Bombay to the UK and further to the United States of America. He enrolled himself at the University of Iowa School Of Dentistry. He repetitively stressed the broad-mindedness of the Western education system. Dr. R. Ahmed graduated from the University of Iowa as a Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1915. During the World War-I, he worked at the Forsyth Dental Infirmary for Children in Boston, Massachusetts until 1918. In 1919, a year after the war ended, he returned to India to open a dental practice in Calcutta.
Dr. R. Ahmed always had a sense of urgency and therefore wasted no time in pursuing what he wanted to achieve. In 1920, a year after his return, he founded the first dental college of India ‘The Calcutta Dental College’ financed by the New York Soda Fountain in Calcutta. The college was run on an experimental basis with only eleven students from 1920 to 1923. Dr. R. Ahmed took the responsibility of teaching dentistry, both theoretical and clinical along with other dedicated teachers. By 1928, the college was a well-organised institution for scientific dental education in India.
He published the first student’s handbook on Operative Dentistry in 1928. Between 1932 and 1936 he was an elected Councillor of Calcutta Corporation. He became an Alderman of the Corporation from 1942 to 1944. The college affiliated with the State Medical Facility in 1936 and with the University of Calcutta in 1949. In the same year, he donated his college to the West Bengal government and named it Calcutta Dental College and served as the Principal of the college from 1920 to 1950.
In 1925, Dr. R. Ahmed established the Indian Dental Journal and served as the Editor until 1946. In the same year, he also established The Bengal Dental Association which was then renamed as The Indian Dental Association. He served three terms as the President of the Indian Dental Association. He also played an instrumental role in forming of the Bengal Dentist Act in 1939. This was the first dental regulation by the Government of India and it stood as a model for the Indian Dental Act passed in 1948. He served as a councillor and alderman of the Calcutta Corporation from 1932 to 1944.
In 1947, Dr. Ahmed was awarded a fellowship at the International College of Dentists. He also received a fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Pierre Fauchard Academy in 1949. He became a minister in the West Bengal government and was a supervisor for the Department of Agriculture, Community Development, Co-operation, Relief and Rehabilitation until 1962.
He was the first elected president of the Indian Dental Council, which he served from 1954 to 1958. In 1964 Dr. R. Ahmed was honored by the Indian Government with Padma Bhushan. He became the first dentist of India to be awarded this title. He passed away on February 9, 1965.