Over forty years of experimentation with this unusual art form has led to its present high degree of excellence. University of Michigan Emeritus Professor Albert G. Richards' floral radiographs literally provide one with a third eye with which to see and appreciate the hidden beauty within flowers. “He may have taught about teeth, but he thought about flowers. . .” —Margaret G. Zackowitz, National Geographic magazine, “Flashback”, November 2006
Albert G. Richards was born in Chicago in 1917. His training in photography began at an early age, because his father was a professional photographer. Formal training at the University of Michigan led to degrees in Chemical Engineering and Physics. In 1940, he joined the School of Dentistry staff as an instructor and focused his interest on x-ray photography and its application to dentistry by teaching himself dental radiography. By 1959 he was made Professor and in 1974 was named the Marcus L. Ward Professor of Dentistry, the first distinguished professorship at the University of Michigan’s dental school. His teaching career at Michigan spanned more than four decades.
A creative, inventive researcher and outstanding teacher, Professor Richards was known as one of the world's foremost authorities in the field of dental radiography. He earned many honors for his teaching and research, including establishment by the School of the Albert G. Richards Award for Excellence in Radiography, which is given annually to a student.
Among his many accomplishments were the invention of the recessed cone dental x-ray head (now found in many dental offices), being the first to use the electron microscope to see the microstructure of human teeth, and inventing the liquid mold technique for showing, with x-rays, the topography of surfaces. This technique has been applied in such diverse fields as fingerprinting and identification, botany, paleobotany, art and archeology. Other products of his inventive mind are dynamic tomography, a radiographic procedure that allows scientists to examine successively, an infinite number of thin layers of an object, and devising the Buccal Object Rule, a radiographic procedure for determining the relative location of objects hidden in the oral region. Before his death in 2008, he also held six patents on his inventions and was the author of more than 100 publications.
He and his wife, Marian, raised their five daughters in a beautiful house he built with his own hands. In retirement, he kept busy pursuing his avocation — the radiographing of flowers. Examples of his unusual and beautiful art have appeared in prominent magazines around the world, in museums, in encyclopedias, and on calendars.
Emeritus Professor Albert G. Richards at his home in Ann Arbor.