How the Institute got its Name

Sir Frank Colyer was an Amazing Man;

In early 1978, we completed an extensive literature search in support of an in-progress clinical / research project concerning the oral disease of a gorilla. During that search, references to a J. F. Colyer revealed that this individual had authored two relevant books: “Dental Disease in Its Relation to General Medicine,” published in 1911; and “Variation and Diseases of the Teeth of Animals,” published in 1936. After reviewing these two books, it was obvious that Sir Frank Colyer had written the fundamental textbook on the subject of dental disease in animals before the turn of the century.

This British Dental Surgeon, had examined and analyzed thousands of exotic animal specimens at :

  • the British Museum,
  • Lord Rothchild’s Museum,
  • the National Museum in Stockholm,
  • the Zoological Museum in Hamburg,
  • the Congo Museum in Belgium,
  • the Natural Museum in Berlin,
  • the Natural History Museum in Leyden,
  • the Natural History Museum in Paris,
  • the United States National Museum in Washington,
  • the American Museum of Natural History in New York,
  • the Field Museum in Chicago
  • the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen
  • the Natural History Museum in Rio de Janerio,
    and no doubt others.

Colyer had, from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, traveled all around the world conducting research, analysis and documentation. He subsequently compiled his data and published his findings and views as a fundamental textbook on dental disease in animals.

In 1979, we were asked to make a presentation before the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians gathering in Washington, D.C. Two papers were presented at that meeting. One was entitled: “Diet consistency and Periodontal Disease in Exotic Carnivores,” and the other: “The Pathogenesis of Dental Disease of Carnivores.” We were particularly concerned with the systemic effects of untreated oral disease, and the effect they were having upon carnivores in captive environments. For this effort we once again reviewed Colyer’s work which goes into great detail on these subjects. On page 690 in his book, “Variation and Disease in the Teeth of Animals,” Dr. Colyer concludes with these remarks ( although written over 100 years ago, still essentially ring true today ):

“The conclusions I have arrived at after my investigations into the disease in animals are as follows:

  1. The disease starts as an injury to the gum margin caused by food. This injury may be of a traumatic or chemical nature; when traumatic, the food in the process of mastication penetrates the soft tissues; when chemical, the products of stagnant food injure the epithelial surface and thus expose the deeper tissues to infection.
  2.  The bone lesion is a progressive rarefying aesthetes commencing at the margin of the bone, and there is no evidence of to support the claim, made by some writers, that the initial bone changes are of an atrophy character.
  3.  The disease is caused by an alteration in the character of the diet of the animal either of a physical or chemical nature – in other words, by a departure from natural diet and conditions.

Expressed in biological terms, the disease is due to an alteration in the environment of the mouth.”

By mid 1979, we had clearly come to respect the name “Colyer”. Subsequently, another extensive computer assisted literature search was undertaken to learn what else Dr. Colyer may have written. It was discovered that he had also written a book in 1912 entitled, “The Extraction of Teeth”. This was a treatise involving the techniques and instruments necessary to master the art and practice of removing teeth, and is one of the earliest, authoritative texts on the subject.

Sir F. Colyer also wrote a book with a Morton Smale, on “Dental Surgery and Pathology of Humans”. This search also revealed, that Colyer had a brother named Stanley, who was a radiologist. Around 1926, Stanley published a book titled: “The Chronic Infection of the Jaws, a Short Radiographic and Clinical Study.” Stanley Colyer also published a series of photographic books featuring a variety of the footpath and road bridges in the surrounding areas. The Royal College of Surgeons of London has a large collection of the Colyer brothers’ material. Both brothers were competent and thorough researchers and writers. Their works were often published in a journal known as: “The Dental Record,” a respected scientific journal published around the turn of the century in London. Frank Colyer later compiled many of these articles into book format, which later became the foundation for his text on dental disease in animals.

Frank Colyer was born in 1866 and died in 1954. He was a very prolific writer with an inquisitive, scientific mind. He spent a good deal of time with another surgeon / anatomist by the name of ” Hunter “. The Royal College of Surgeons at Lincoln Inn Field in London has their collection of specimens and material displayed as ” The Hunterian Collection “. The College rewrote and updated Colyer’s textbook a few years ago.

In September of 1980, we came to the conclusion that the American scientific community could benefit from an organization that would specifically encourage, assemble, focus and coordinate further study and research of various oral related issues in animals. It was decided that the most productive way to achieve these objectives was a nonprofit organization dedicated to and named in memory of Sir Frank Colyer and his brother. The Colyer Institute became that organization.

Established by early 1982, The Colyer Institute is a tax exempt 501c3 non-profit organization. Its three primary objectives are to provide clinical care, develop educational programs, and conduct relevant research in the areas of oral disease and nutrition for the benefit of exotic animals. Since its inception, The Colyer Institute has established a working relationship with many zoological facilities around the world.