Dentistry and Golf: An Unlikely Pairing
George Franklin Grant 1847-1910


The son of former slaves, George Franklin Grant apprenticed with a local dentist for two years before entering Harvard Dental School in 1868. His appointment to the Harvard Department of Mechanical Dentistry in 1871 made him the school's first African American faculty member.

Professor Grant invented the oblate palate, an innovative prosthetic treatment for cleft palate, and was recognized internationally for his expertise in dentistry. He was a founding member and president of the Harvard Odontological Society and elected president of the Harvard Dental Alumni Association in 1881.

An avid golfer, he maintained a homemade golf course near his home in Belmont where he regularly golfed with friends, including abolitionist Alexander Grimke. To tee off, golfers built a pyramid of dirt and rested the ball on it. This produced unpredictable results as well as dirty hands. In 1899, Grant designed and patented a wooden peg, the first golf tee. Grant had the tees manufactured by a local firm and gave them away by the handful. He never publicized his invention or sought to gain from it. The idea was later adopted and developed by others.



 Newton on the Tee: A Good Walk Through the Science of Golf
by John Zumevchik, 2002

Cleft Lip Palate: From Origin to Treatment
by Diego Wyszynaki, 2002