Born on March 6, 1877 in New Dundee, Ontario, Canada, Leuman Maurice Waugh, moved to Rochester, New York, with his family at the age of nine. He acquired his love for photography in Rochester, which always attributed as the "Kodak city." Following in his father's dentistry footsteps, Waugh attended the University of Buffalo, from which he received his D.D.S. in 1900. He took post-graduate studies in Histology, Bacteriology, and Pathology at Buffalo's School of Medicine, and within two years was appointed Professor of Histology and Embryology at his alma mater. In 1912, Waugh pioneered the design of a unit-type x-ray machine for use at the dental chair, which was later studied and adopted by large dental apparatus manufacturers. By the time he left Buffalo in 1914 to specialize in the infant field of orthodontics in New York City, he had served as Professor of Special Pathology and Officer of the Governing Faculty at the university.
In 1915, Waugh served on the Organization Committee of the Columbia Dental School and shortly thereafter became its Secretary of the Dental Faculty, and sequentially Secretary of the Administrative Board and Professor of Histology and Embryology. In 1921 he was appointed Professor and Director of the Orthodontic Division of the school, and later served as Associate Director, Acting Director and Associate Dean. Waugh's affiliation with Columbia lasted through 1945. He served as Director of the American Board of Orthodontics from 1949 to 1953, and was asked to serve as Secretary-Chairman of the Orthodontia section of the American Association of Dental Schools in 1930, and as President in 1935. Waugh married Helen "Esty" Marshall, and had a son, Donald (also a dentist), and a daughter, Dorothy.
An active member of the Explorer's Club and Commodore of the Yachting Department of the New York Athletic Club, Waugh volunteered to undertake Alaskan studies on caries research among the Inuit for the U.S. Public Health Service. In 1929, the Health Service appointed Waugh Dental Director (Reserve) at the rank of Colonel. Waugh was apparently inspired by a lecture he heard as a student in 1908 from Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, Smithsonian Curator of Physical Anthropology at the Institute of Dental Pedagogics, on the dental conditions of human populations. Waugh privately carried out a Labrador study between 1921 and d1927 over the course of five summers. Under the sometimes-partial aegis of the U.S. Public Heath Service, Waugh also studied twelve Alaskan Inuit communities between 1929 and 1938. He was the first dental officer in the U.S. Public Service ever assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Northland's cruise area of the Bering Sea and Alaska Arctic regions. During his trips, Waugh compiled data on the teeth, mouth, and diet of indigenous communities. In addition, he took many photographs and films of both dental subjects and indigenous communities.
Waugh's son, Donald, accompanied him on his 1935 expedition up the Kuskokwim River (Alaska) in their custom designed and built 29 foot yacht Nanuk Mi-kin-inni (Polar Bear Cub). In 1936, Waugh was appointed to a position with the Alaska Health Service by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior via the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. This position allowed him to further his studies of tooth decay throughout Alaska and the Bering Sea region. Waugh's 1937 expedition included three dentists (one a biochemist), a physician and a nurse, and involved extensive air travel in small planes. A popular lecturer and prolific writer, Waugh continued to advocate for the health of the northern indigenous communities he visited long after his trips ended. He spent the remainder of his professional career at Columbia University, where he rose from Professor of Orthodontia (1923-19435) to (concurrently) Chief of Orthodontia and Director of the Department of Orthodontics. Waugh continued to be active in professional organizations well after his retirement, until a few years before his death at his home in Betterton, Maryland, on May 6, 1972.