Douglas Toll

Obituary for  Douglas E. Toll

Dipl.-Biol. Nicole Drinkuth

(Source: Kieferorthopädie Nachrichten, KN 12/2012, OEMUS Media AG)


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There are only few people whose personalities have a lasting effect, whose presence influences everyone coming into contact with them. Douglas Edward Toll, born on January 31 1930 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin/USA, was such a personality.


He passed away on September 29 2012, aged 82.


The milestones in his life can be traced as follows: Raised in Ripon, Wisconsin, he became a boy scout in the “Boy Scouts of America”, rising up to the rank of an “Eagle Boy Scout”. In 1948 he graduated from high school as a class captain. Douglas Toll absolved his pre-dental education at Ripon College and later studied dentistry at the Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, from 1951 – 1954. From 1954 – 1959, he served in the US Air Force as military dentist and made it to the rank of a Colonel. During his years in active service, he was stationed, among other, in Morocco, where he learnt how to ski, just incidentally, and – also just incidentally – he became team captain of the US Air Force ski team. One can practically see the ambition sizzling in this man, oozing out from between these lines: Eagle Boy Scout, class captain, ski team captain, Colonel. Success proved him right and motivated him. At some point in his military career, Douglas Toll was stationed in Pforzheim, Germany. Of German ancestry, he familiarised himself with the country of his forefathers and came to love it. He visited many countries and learned about various cultures and peoples. That acted as a great influence on him for the rest of his life. After the dismissal from active service in 1959, he worked as general dentist in a dental practice in Palos Verdes, California/USA, from 1960 - 1966.


He tried his hand in orthodontics already at that stage, the beginning of a life-long passion that never left him. During his time in the military, Douglas Toll had already been trained by the Great in functional orthodontics: Korkhaus, Stockfisch and Bimler. Now he was back to hitting the books, studying orthodontics, periodontology, and paediatric dentistry. His teachers were none other than the luminaries of their trade: Brodie and Renfro. In retrospect, one could say that only the great may learn from the great. Douglas Toll had found his vocation and graduated as a Master of Science (MS) in orthodontics, in 1969. In 1968, he founded his own orthodontic practice in Germany, first in Sulzbach am Taunus, and then in Bad Soden am Taunus. In over 40 years, this practice rose to regional, national and even international fame. Douglas Toll was known by his colleagues and patients as a friendly, creative, and delightfully undogmatic doctor, whose energy seemed to be almost inexhaustible (“I’ll be friendly until midnight!”). He visited nearly all continents to share his vast knowledge and experience in courses, lectures or table clinics. What he never did was to ensconce himself in some kind of academic ivory tower. He would always actively seek discourse with his peers. Also, he was one of the few persons who have really grasped and internalised the concept that one is a life-long learner. He would “inhale” any new information until virtually his very last moment, in child-like curiosity. And he would share it to the benefit of others. His relationship to limits or boundaries, real or imaginary, was always a somewhat strained one. He perceived and acknowledged them just to step across them, with a sense of defiance. This inspired him to find solutions to problems in orthodontics or in general that had, before, been largely considered unsolvable. Of course, such behaviour would cause him to rub the wrong way with his colleagues. That, however, left him completely unfazed. He was on his highest form when there were heated scientific discussions. Those who have witnessed it “live” understand the true meaning of his often-used phrase: “I am looking forward to a hot discussion.”


He was always focussed on his patients' benefit, burning in his ambition to find the optimal diagnostic and therapeutic strategy. Douglas Toll was the inventor of the Mandibular Anterior Repositioning Appliance (MARA), an appliance that will always be linked with his name.


What remains? His sometimes whacky, sometimes witty humour, his ingenuity, his incredible intelligence and also his trademark, the lovely American accent when he spoke German. He was the metaphorical child, curious and filled with wonder, always open-minded and ready to accept new knowledge, new people and new situations. His enthusiasm was contagious and inspired countless colleagues and even his patients. His loss hurts. Now, his successor, dr.stom(Univ. Belgrade) Nenad Popović, is being faced with the challenge to carry on the torch and to cherish Douglas Toll’s legacy. For the benefit of the patients and the progress of the orthodontic science