Dr. Charles Burstone, innovator and leader in biomechanics research, died in February
|Dr. Charles J. Burstone|
WFO Fellow Dr. Charles J. Burstone, 86, of Bloomfield, Connecticut, USA, died of cardiac arrest Feb. 11, 2015, in Seoul, South Korea. Dr. Burstone, professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, was in Seoul to celebrate the retirement of Dr. Young Chel Park, who had served as a professor in the Department of Orthodontics at Yonsei University College of Dentistry, and to participate in the university’s Milestones in Orthodontic Philosophy Conference, which was dedicated to Dr. Burstone. On Feb. 11, Dr. Burstone delivered his last lecture on biomechanics and received a standing ovation at the end.
Dr. Burstone had many personal ties to South Korea. After completing dental school in 1950 at the age of 22, he served as a captain in the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1953. For eight months, he was stationed at the K-9 Air Base in the Suyeong district of Busan, South Korea. While there, he provided dental care to the troops and the local villagers. A lifelong photographer, Dr. Burstone explored the area near the base and filmed and photographed Korean villagers going about their daily tasks in a time of war.
Decades later, the National Folk Museum in Seoul created an exhibit, documentary film and book, entitled Korea 1952, based on Dr. Burstone’s rare collection of film and photographs. The museum’s special exhibit ran from June 22 to Sept. 5, 2011. News of Dr. Burstone’s contribution became widely known when most of the South Korean television stations included a segment on the documentary film during the primetime news.
In the ensuing years after his military service, Dr. Burstone embarked on his academic career in orthodontics, completing his master’s degree in 1955 at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. That same year, he became an assistant professor in the Department of Orthodontics at Indiana University. From 1966 to 1970, he was a professor in the department. He also served as acting chairman of the department from 1956 to 1961, and as chairman from 1961 to 1970.
In 1970, Dr. Burstone and Dr. Sam Weinstein founded the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, which is now known as the Division of Orthodontics in the Department of Craniofacial Sciences. From 1970 to 1992, he served as professor and head of the department. While he was named professor emeritus in 1994, he continued to teach and conduct research at the university. Every summer, he would teach a two- to three-month course in biomechanics. In all, he taught more than 40 classes of orthodontists at the University of Connecticut. He also lectured worldwide on a regular basis.
Dr. Burstone was well-known for the development of the field of scientific biomechanics, including research in the biomechanics of tooth movement, the development of new appliances, understanding the force systems for appliances and the invention of new materials. He was the co-developer of many new orthodontic wires, including beta titanium, super-elastic nickel titanium and long-fiber reinforced composites. The Association of University Technology Managers listed his research developments in fiber-reinforced composites as one of the 25 most important innovations that changed the world. He held numerous patents related to orthodontics, biomechanics and materials science.
Dr. Flavio Uribe, the program director of the Division of Orthodontics at the University of Connecticut and the Charles Burstone Professor, recalls Dr. Burstone stating that he would go into private practice once he figured out orthodontics. “He was definitely a well-rounded and wise individual,” Dr. Uribe said. “He was the father of modern biomechanics and was the most quoted author on biomechanics research.”
For more than 25 years, he received continuous support from the National Institutes of Health as a principal investigator on research grants. He also created a support fund for translational research at the University of Connecticut, which involved the application of basic science in orthodontics. In addition to his research in physics and engineering, he also contributed widely to the field of cephalometrics, diagnosis, treatment planning and interactive computer graphics. He was also well-known for his soft-tissue analysis of the face and pioneering work in facial esthetics. He published more than 25 books or book chapters and published more than 150 articles in refereed journals.
Dr. Burstone received numerous accolades during his long career. In 1956, he received the American Association of Orthodontists’ Research Essay Award. In 1983, he received the Tokyo Medical-Dental School Research Award. The Canadian Association of Orthodontists awarded him the Grieve Memorial Lecturer Award in 1987. He received an honorary PhD from the Royal Dental College in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1989. In 1990, he received the Robert Strang Memorial Lecture Award. In 1991, the University of Michigan honored Dr. Burstone with the Jarabak Lecture Award. In 1994, he became an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) awarded the Albert H. Ketcham Memorial Award to Dr. Burstone, a diplomate and past president of the ABO, in 1999. He was also a past president of the Great Lakes Association of Orthodontists.
Friends and colleagues note that his inquisitive nature was not limited to orthodontics. His travels fueled his wide-ranging interests. His photographs recorded his experiences. In addition to photographing Korean villagers in the midst of war, Dr. Burstone also had the opportunity to visit China in 1982, several years after the death of Mao Zedong. He was one of the first orthodontists to educate Chinese dentists in orthodontics after China began opening its borders. While there, he explored the country with an interpreter and his camera. Many years later, local libraries would invite Dr. Burstone to lecture on his travels, particularly on his experiences in South Korea and in China. He most recently visited China in October 2014.
Dr. Michael and Anita Marcotte of Avon, CT, considered Dr. Burstone to be a member of their family. Dr. Marcotte, whose friendship with Dr. Burstone spanned five decades, was a former student and an assistant professor in Division of Orthodontics at the University of Connecticut.
At the time of his death, Dr. Burstone was completing his last book, a collaborative effort with several Korean orthodontists. It will be published in the next few weeks. “He loved Korea so much,” Dr. Marcotte said. “It was fitting that his last lecture was in Korea.”
“He was generous, fun and always had good stories to tell,” Anita Marcotte said. “He always had something to talk about and was engaging in conversations. … I never remember him being stumped by anything. He really enjoyed life. Everything was of interest to him. If we went on a trip together, we would always go to museums. He would say, ‘You’ll love this.’ And, it was always true.”
|Dr. Charles Burstone delivers his last lecture at Yonsei University College of Dentistry on Feb. 11, 2015. His lecture was part of the Milestones in Orthodontic Philosophy Conference, which was dedicated to him. ||Dr. Charles Burstone is pictured here with the orthodontists and students who attended his last lecture on Feb. 11, 2015, in Seoul, South Korea.|
Watch the documentary film Korea 1952 by clicking here. The article that accompanies the documentary was originally published in Volume 7, Issue 1, 2012, of the WFO Gazette.