Renowned scientist dies at 92

A NORTH scientist who was a world expert in mouth hygiene and contributed to the global debate on the use of fluoride in water has died.

A NORTH scientist who was a world expert in mouth hygiene and contributed to the global debate on the use of fluoride in water has died.

Professor Neil Jenkins who lived in Jesmond, Newcastle, was Professor of Oral Physiology at Newcastle University for most of his distinguished career.

He died last Sunday, three days before his 93rd birthday, after contracting cancer.

During his working life his research concentrated on prevention of tooth decay. He taught for many years at Newcastle University’s Dental School and wrote what became a standard textbook on oral physiology.

One of his major study areas was work looking at the beneficial effect that eating cheese has on tooth decay. He also looked at the effects fluoride in water had on teeth, even going so far as to give himself tooth decay to show that it could be cured by using fluoride.

Later in his career he lectured on the subject worldwide as a debate over fluoride in water raged across the world. During the Second World War, he served as a nutritional adviser to the government.

Away from work he had a wide array of interests. In particular he was keen to study environmentalism and looked at the damage the human race is doing to our environment.

In 1972 he raised fears about the environmental impact that Concorde would have, one of the first to question the impact on the environment of flying.

He leaves behind a son, Oliver, and a daughter, Hilbre, named after a small island near Liverpool where he met his wife. He also leaves two granddaughters, Victoria and Caroline. Dr Jenkins’s wife, Olive, died about 11 years ago.

Their son Oliver said: “Even though my father was born in Wallasey, Liverpool, he moved to the North-East after going to Cambridge University and he fell in love with the area. He loved the scenery and the shipbuilding area. He really took the North-East to his heart.

“When we were growing up, he was always very busy and away a lot, so I didn’t know him very well. But after my mother Olive died, we became a lot closer and did lots of things together and I will always be grateful for that time we spent together.

“My father retired from work when my mother died and he did a lot of travelling. He went all over the world and met up with a lot of his former students who had set up dental practices in various parts of the world. He had a lot of friends and we have been inundated with messages since he died.”

Dr Jenkins was also a lifelong humanist. He was president of the North-East humanists and gave funeral orations for those who requested non-religious ceremonies. He was an active member of the Friends of Jesmond Dene and the Society for Psychical Research.

Dr Jenkins’s funeral is at West Road Crematorium, Newcastle, at 11.15am on Monday, October 29.

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