Ahead in Imaging

The British Society of Dental and Maxillofacial Radiology

Ahead in Imaging

The British Society of Dental and Maxillofacial Radiology


The Blackman-Mason Award is the Society’s premier award and commemorates the significant contributions made to our specialty by Sydney Blackman (1898-1971) and his daughter Rita Mason (1925-2008). These brief biographies are intended to show why Council agreed in 2000 to create the award in the name of Sydney Blackman and why Rita Mason’s name was added in 2008.


Sydney Blackman (1898-1971)

Sydney Blackman was born in Hackney, London. His parents were Polish emigrants and his father the cantor at the South Hackney synagogue. Sydney was educated at the local Grocers’ Company School and then entered the London Hospital Medical School, graduating LRCP MRCS in 1920. Although he went into general practice, first in Hackney and then in Hampstead Garden Suburb, he maintained his interest in radiology, obtaining the DMRE in 1928. In 1931 he was appointed Hon Consultant to the Royal Dental Hospital, in 1948 becoming a Consultant in the new NHS. When he retired in 1967 he was offered the post of Professor of Dental Radiology at North Western University in Chicago where he remained until his death in 1971.

Sydney Blackman’s major contribution to dental radiology and radiography, and in particular the development of panoramic radiology in the form of the Rotograph, is described in detail by Rita Mason in her articles in Dentomaxillofacial Radiology (1998) 27, 371-375 and the Journal of The Radiology History and Heritage Charitable Trust (2002) 18,16-27. He was the author of two textbooks, Atlas of Dental and Oral Radiology (1959) and, with HG Poynton, Manual of Dental and Oral Radiography (1963).

Throughout his career he was very much aware of the need to establish the specialty on a professional basis, an endeavour he pursued on three fronts. First, his initiative in calling a meeting of teachers of dental radiology at the London dental schools in 1957 led to the formation of the British Society of Dental Radiology. At the inaugural meeting in March 1959 he was elected President and in his Presidential Address defined the problems facing the infant specialty, not least the need for a higher professional qualification. An initial approach to the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the RCS England was declined and

the Society therefore decided to offer a Fellowship of the British Society of Dental Radiology. Although it never found widespread acceptance, it was the germ that led to the creation of the DDR thirty years later. Third, he envisaged an European Association of Dental Radiology and, given his widespread contacts, organized a meeting in Bonn in 1962, fifteen years before Professor David Smith organized a similar meeting in London.


Rita Mason (1925-2008)

Sydney Blackman’s daughter Rita was born in Hackney and educated at Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb. She trained as a radiographer at King’s College Hospital, and, on qualifying in 1944, worked at the Miller Hospital in Greenwich until she went to Mombasa in 1947. She returned to England three years later to a post at the Bolingbroke Hospital in Wandsworth, leaving when her father persuaded her to join him at the Royal Dental Hospital. In the seven years she worked there, she started teaching dental students radiography and was involved with her father in the development of the Rotograph. She left in 1957 when she married again and started a family.

In 1963 she returned to work, initially at Great Ormond Street

Children’s Hospital where the orthodontists needed an expert dental radiographer. She subsequently moved to the (now Royal) London Hospital Dental School where she was appointed Tutor in Dental Radiography. She retired in 1988.

Her handbook A Guide to Dental Radiography, first published in 1978, went into three editions within ten years. She set up the first radiography course for dental auxiliaries in 1983 that due to her efforts, was recognized by the Society of Radiographers the following year. She was a long-standing, enthusiastic member of the BSDMFR and in 1996 was made a Life Member. She was also a strong supporter of the IADMFR and in 1985 a member of the organising committee for the 7th congress in London.