“Dr. Engel was a gentleman and a scholar, in every sense of both words,” said Dean Bruce Graham. “He demonstrated a keen scientific curiosity, and we will miss him greatly.”
While a student at the UIC College of Dentistry, young Milt Engel was inspired by Dr. Isaac Schour, whom the student assisted in studying the effect of physiologic events on laboratory animal teeth. During his senior year, Dr. Engel assisted Dr. Allan Brodie in clinical research dealing with growth of the jaws in thyroid-deficient children. A paper he wrote, “A Roentgenographic Cephalometric Appraisal of Untreated Hyothyroidism,”
After earning his DDS in 1938 and MS in Orthodontics in 1940, Dr. Engel continued as a researcher at the College and became a Carnegie Fellow in Orthodontics, studying a method for the localization of the enzyme phosphatase in developing teeth.
Dr. Engel served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. After returning to Chicago, he joined Dr. Brodie in orthodontic practice and joined the faculty of the College in 1946, serving as Research Associate and later as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, and Professor Emeritus.
Faculty member Dr. Isadore Gersh suggested to Dr. Engel that he have his own laboratory at the College to study oral connective tissue and teeth. Dr. Schour obtained the equipment for him, and Dr. Engel obtained grants from the National Institute of health, the U.S. Army, and the Graduate College. His research dealt with the effect of parathyroid extract on connective tissue ground substance and the metabolism of bone cells. He also developed a method to examine teeth and bone without decalcification.
Dr. Engel also researched the physiochemical properties of cells and of connective tissues affecting their large charged molecules, electrolytes, and the special behavior of water in cells and their environment. Additionally, he conducted a radiological study of women at risk for osteoporosis.
Of research at the College, Dr. Engel said, “I was given the freedom to broaden my experience and training and received material support in establishing a laboratory. No strictures were placed on my activities or interests. This freedom made possible collaboration with colleagues in medicine and pharmacy which flourishes today.”
Dr. Engel served as a member of the Dental Study Section of the National Institute of Health and as a referee for scientific journals. He supervised several graduate students to completion of their master’s degrees, and had served as Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Research. Dr. Engel was conferred the Distinguished Dental Alumnus Award of the College in 1999.
Of his 66 years on the College’s faculty, Dr. Engel said, “I have enjoyed the experience of teaching and perhaps influencing the careers of undergraduate and graduate students during these years.”
Dr. Engel is survived by his wife, Dr. Elaine Engel; his two children, Katherine and Louis Engel; his wife’s sons, Jeffrey and Vance Liebman. Memorials may be given to Thresholds, 4101 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60613.