The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: “The Musical Dentist” Who Now Studies Narwhals

HONOLULU Magazine emerged from predecessor Paradise of the Pacific, which began in 1888, fulfilling a commission by King Kalākaua. That makes this the oldest continuously published magazine west of the Mississippi with an enviable archive worth diving into each month. Here’s a look back at September 1991.


HONOLULU runs a short profile of Martin Nweeia, “The Musical Dentist.” Not only does he practice dentistry, he also edits the Hawai‘i Dental Journal, writes a weekly column for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, serves as the state advocate for children’s health and leads international expeditions to study “teeth fossils, dental reconstructions, and children’s dental hygiene practices.” As a classically trained pianist, Nweeia has written scores for local and national television as well, including “As One Hawai‘i,” which “had the Islands’ top musicians singing both to support local troops in the Gulf War and to generate proceeds to aid military dependents.”


From Our Files Martin Nweeia September 1991



In the years since this profile ran, he’s only gotten more interesting. Nweeia has lectured at Harvard, written two books about dental hygiene and become an expert on narwhal tusks. After receiving a grant from National Geographic, he and a research team set out to study the animals and discovered that the tusk, often thought of as a giant tooth, is actually a sensory organ. They put together an exhibit on narwhals at the Smithsonian that ran from 2017 to 2019, where he is a research associate in the Marine Mammal Program. In 2020, Nweeia was able to continue his research in the Arctic, studying how the coronavirus could affect the animals.




On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan formally surrendered on board the USS Missouri, ending World War II. The ceremony took place in Tokyo Bay; today, the battleship Missouri resides at Pearl Harbor.




09 21 Fof Covers



Learn more about the evolution of covers in HONOLULU Magazine and Paradise of the Pacific: 125 Years of Covers, available at


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