Edward Maynard

Invented the tape primer and a breech-loading rifle

Born—Madison, N. Y., Apr. 26, 1813 Died—Washington, D. C., May 4, 1891

Edward Maynard was a brilliant dental theorist who wanted to be a soldier. Born on a farm in upstate New York, he managed to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Frail health, however, forced him to resign during his first year and turn to dentistry instead.

As a dentist, Maynard achieved an eminent reputation. After completing his training, he moved to Washington, D. C., in 1836 and practiced there, except for short intervals, for the rest of his life. He discovered and announced the existence of dental fevers, became the first to use gold foil in fillings, developed improved dental instruments, and made many important contributions to dentistry. He held the Chair of Theory and Practice at Baltimore Dental College from 1857 until 1891 and a like position at the National University from 1887 until his death.

Despite these really great contributions to dental science, Maynard has been best remembered for his inventions in firearms. In 1845 he patented the tape primer which was adopted for official U. S. arms in 1855. In 1851 he invented an improvement in breech-loading rifles which resulted in the Maynard rifle and carbine. In addition to these well-known inventions, he also patented a number of other improvements in firearms, including a means of converting muzzle-loaders to breechloaders; a method of joining 2 barrels to permit longitudinal expansion or contraction, and a device for indicating the number of cartridges in a magazine firearm.

For his work in dentistry and firearms, Maynard was granted many honors, both at home and abroad. He received several honorary degrees and was an honorary member of a number of scientific bodies. Among other forms of recognition, he was designated court dentist to Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, made a chevalier of the military order of the Red Eagle by the King of Prussia, and accorded a gold medal of merit by the King of Sweden. —Harold L. Peterson

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