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Bernard Moxham

Professor Bernard Moxham

Emeritus Professor

School of Biosciences


I was Professor of Anatomy at Cardiff from 1990 to 2013, Dean of Health and Life Sciences at Cardiff from 1994 to 1999, and Deputy Director of the Cardiff School of Biosciences from 1998 to 2013. I have been President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland (AS), of the European Federation for Experimental Morphology (EFEM), and of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists (IFAA). I started in 2004 the Trans-European Pedagogic Anatomical Research Group (TEPARG), based in Paris. When Treasurer of the AS, I founded the journal Aging Cell that is the journal for reporting on the biology of ageing that now has the highest scientific impact for this line of research. I have been Visiting Researcher/Professor in association with universities at Gothenburg, Dunedin, Thessaloniki, Lisbon and St George’s Medical School (Grenada) and an educational advisor at Barcelona.

Initially, my research interests focussed primarily upon craniofacial biology, investigating the structure, function, ageing and pathophysiology of the connective tissues in and around the mouth. I also conducted research into craniofacial development and congenital abnormalities.  The main achievements of this research were: the elucidation of the mechanisms responsible for the eruption of teeth, for the resistance of teeth to masticatory loads, and for the elevation of palatal shelves during palate development. Additionally, by reporting on the embryonic features of the periodontal ligament, the presence in this tissue of embryonic stem cells has been discovered. My laboratory investigations also clarified the rôle of folates in the prevention of congenital malformations.

I have always enjoyed teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, whether in the biological sciences or in professional healthcare studies. My teaching covered both scientific topics and matters related to the history, culture and philosophy of science. Over the past 15 years, I have developed a profound interest in pedagogic research related to the biomedical sciences, believing that curricular changes must be evidence-based. I have also engaged in work relating to the philosophy, ethics and sociology of the biomedical sciences and to the analysis of attitude and assessment of personality in psychology (as applied to the biomedical sciences/professions).  I have a major involvement in medical humanities and the arts.

The total number of my publications exceeds 350 and includes 16 textbooks and 2 research monographs. My research has been funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Arts Research Council, and the Arts Council of England.


Following publication of the 5th edition of the textbook, Oral Anatomy, Oral Histology and Oral Embryology, I can now embark on the writing of a long-planned, 7 volume set of books on human anatomy and also of a book, Biology in Society, that introduces students in the biosciences to philosophy and ethics, the history, culture and sociology of biology, and bio-entrepreneurial matters.

Recent invitations to present research findings at international conferences include a conference on psychology and personality at Mons, the 8th Asia Pacific International Congress of Anatomists (APICA) at Busan (Korea), and an anatomical conference at Lisbon.

Work continues on panels that I chair concerned with the development of core syllabuses in the anatomical sciences and with anatomical terminologies.

With Arts Council of England financial support, I am curating exhibitions in 2019 of the art of John Furnival at Venice and at Bath.



The role of mesenchymes in craniofacial development

Abnormal development of the mesenchymes in palatal shelves is responsible for the formation of palatal clefts, one of the most common human congenital abnormalities. Past research in our laboratory has highlighted the importance of palatal shelf ECM in the generation of turgor pressure to facilitate palatal shelf elevation. Present work is characterising the biochemical and ultrastructural features of this mesenchyme and the changes that take place in experimentally-induced clefts.  Research is also being undertaken on the development of the upper lip and the mechanisms responsible for cleft lip formation.  Most recently, and in collaboration with colleagues at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), we have been studying the effects of teratogens on craniofacial and brain development.  We have shown that folic acid can "rescue" even major craniofacial abnormalities produced by teratogens. We are also investigating those parental socio-biological features that "predispose" to the development of craniofacial congenital abnormalities. The work on craniofacial development was awarded the Enrique Martinez Moreno prize. I am preparing a monograph with international colleagues concerned with normal and abnormal craniofacial development and therapies.

The relationships between structure, function, composition and pathology of periodontal connective tissues

The periodontal ligament attaches the tooth to the jaw and is responsible for resisting masticatory loads and for providing the forces of eruption. Previous research has characterised the structural, ultrastructural, biochemical, and biomechanical properties of the periodontal ligament. My research has also resolved problems regarding the mechanisms responsible for tooth eruption and for the way in which the periodontal ligament resists masticatory loads (the tooth support mechanism). Our research has also shown that, unusually, the periodontal ligament maintains foetal/mesenchymal characteristics; this finding has led to the isolation of embryonic stem cells in and around the tooth. Clinically, the periodontal ligament is affected by inflammatory periodontal disease and provides the initial reactions to the imposition of orthodontic loads. Present research is concerned with the biochemistry of the tissue in health and disease and, in particular, we are studying the effects of ageing.

Pedagogic research in the biomedical sciences

I founded a Trans-European pedagogic research group for the anatomical sciences.  Presently, we are comparing the legal procedures operating for body bequests across the EU, investigating the attitudes of medical and dental students to the clinical relevance of the biomedical sciences, assessing the meaning of research-led teaching in higher education, determining the mathematical and literary skills possessed by science, medical and dental students when first they enter university, and investigating the relationships between course aims/learning outcomes and teaching methods employed for topographical anatomy.  Further work is investigating the knowledge possessed by science, medical and dental students about the philosophy of science and of ethical frameworks, the understanding of clinical medicine possessed by newly recruited medical students, and how personality differences relate to attitudes and learning styles for students in the health professions and in biosciences.  I have edited an educational issue of the European Journal of Anatomy following educational symposia held at the joint meeting of the British and Spanish Anatomical Societies at Madrid (August 2006) and was invited by the Anatomical Society to organise a major conference on biomedical education at Cardiff in December 2011. I am planning the writing of a monograph on biomedical education.

In 2005, I was awarded the "Enrique Martinez Moreno Prize" by the Sociedad Anatomica Espanola for my research into craniofacial development. In 2009, I was given Honorary membership of the Turkish Society of Anatomy and Clinical Anatomy for "worldwide contributions to teaching anatomy". Recently, the Anatomical Societies in the U.K., Spain and Argentina have awarded me Honorary Fellowships for “national and international contributions to the discipline of anatomy”.

Postgraduate Research Students

  • Dr Shiby Stephens
  • Susan Morgan (with the School of English, Philosophy and Journalism)


I initially read dentistry at the University of Bristol, completing my clinical studies in 1973. During this period I also undertook an intercalated BSc in Anatomy, obtaining a 1st class Honours degree. Deciding on an academic career, I took up an appointment as demonstrator in the Anatomy department at Bristol, completing my PhD there in 1978. As a Wellcome Trust Visiting Researcher, I undertook postgraduate research at the Department of Physiology, Göteborg University, Sweden (under the direction of Professor B. Folkow). I was promoted to senior lecturer at Bristol before being appointed as Professor and Head of Anatomy at Cardiff in 1990. As a result of the merger of two major biology schools at Cardiff in 1998, I became Deputy Director of the Cardiff School of Biosciences and Head of Teaching in Biosciences. As Head of Teaching, I oversaw the achievement of ‘excellent’ awards for all courses (science, medicine, dentistry) in the UK’s Teaching Quality Audits (TQAs).

Externally, I am/have been a Visiting Professor at the University of Otago (New Zealand), the University of Thessaloniki (Greece), the New University of Lisbon (Portugal), Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain) and at St George's University (Grenada). Over the previous 15 years, I have been either an external examiner or an advisor/moderator at over 20 universities worldwide. I was a panellist for the 2001 U.K. Research Assessment Exercise (Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology and Preclinical sciences Panel) and I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, of the Royal Society of Biology, and of anatomical societies within the U.K., Turkey, Spain and Argentina.

In addition to being presidents of several learned societies (see ‘Overview’), I am presently editor-in-chief of the European Journal of Anatomy and I am a member of the editorial board of ANATOMY, of the International Journal of Experimental and Clinical Anatomy, and of Clinical Anatomy.  I was a member of the editorial board of Medical Humanities. In association with anatomical societies worldwide, I have organised three international congresses at Cardiff concerned respectively with connective tissues biology, joints, and anatomical education.

In addition to my scientific interests, I have a major involvement in medical humanities and the arts.  With the artist Nick Cudworth, I have collaborated on the production of a series of anatomical drawings (‘New Anatomy Lessons’).  With Ian Breakwell, I co-ordinated a project called ‘The Dance of Death’ which received financial backing from the Wellcome Trust (Sci-Art grants).  The project re-examined the socio-cultural, psychological and medico-ethical issues relating to mortality.  An extensive catalogue (including essays by myself and Ian Breakwell) was produced.  I have worked with Karen Ingham on the development of the Wellcome Trust and AHRC supported ‘Anatomy Lessons’ project that led to a series of large scale photo-works, video installations and public talks and to the publication of a well-illustrated book. We have also undertaken a project relating art, neuroscience (memory) and botany entitled ‘Seeds of Memory’ that received AHRC funding. I was also awarded a Leverhulme Grant to work with the artist Anne-Mie Melis on a project relating to plant sciences.

I contributed to the Wellcome Trust's exhibition ‘New Anatomists’ (including an essay in the exhibition catalogue) and have delivered lectures on the scientific achievements of Leonardo da Vinci (‘Da Vinci - Artist, Scientist, Inventor and Rogue’). I have written a book concerned with the relationship between medicine and the arts and have also organised exhibitions on art illustrating James Joyce's Ulysses (36 books related to this aspect being published by Openings-Closings Press). I have organised seminars on the history of medicine and, in association with the School of English, Philosophy and Journalism at Cardiff University, I organised an international conference (‘Livres d’Artistes – theory and practice’) in 2015. The Arts Council of England have provided financial support to enable me to curate a touring exhibition on the art of John Furnival (2018 – 2019).