Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John Hunter (surgeon)
Hunter was born near East Kilbride. He was a younger brother of William Hunter, the anatomist. He studied, taught and practiced in London (initially with his brother). Hunter was an excellent anatomist; his knowledge and skill as a surgeon was based on sound anatomical background. Among his numerous contributions to medical science are :
- study of human teeth and advancement of dentistry
- extensive study of inflammation
- fine work on gun-wounds
- some work on venereal diseases
After years of hard work he set up his own anatomy school in London in 1764 and started in private surgical practice. His recognition rose in 1767 when he was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1768 he was appointed as surgeon to St. George's Hospital. Later he became a member of the Company of Surgeons. In 1776 he was appointed surgeon to King George III; in 1786 he was appointed deputy surgeon to the British Army and in 1789 he was made Surgeon General.
In 1799 the government purchased Hunter's collection of papers and specimens, which it presented to the Company of Surgeons.
Hunter was a philosopher in more senses than one; he had philosophy enough to bear prosperity, as well as adversity, and with a rough exterior was a very kind man. The poor could command his services more than the rich. He would see an industrious tradesman before a duke, when his house was full of grandees, "you have no time to spare," he would say, "you live by it; most of these can wait, they have nothing to do when they go home." No man cared less for the profits of the profession, or more for the honour of it. He cared not for money himself, and wished the Doctor [his brother William] to estimate it by the same scale, when he sent a poor man with this laconic note:—
- "Dear Brother,—The bearer wants your advice. I do not know the nature of case. He has no money, and you have plenty, so are well met."
- "Yours, J. HUNTER."
He was applied to once to perform a serious operation on a tradesman's wife; the fee agreed upon was twenty guineas. He heard no more of the case for two months; at the end of which time he was called upon to perform it. In the course of his attendance, he found out that the cause of the delay had been the difficulty under which the patient's husband had laboured to raise the money; and that they were worthy people, who had been unfortunate, and were by no means able to support the expense of such an affliction. "I sent back to the husband nineteen guineas, and kept the twentieth," said he, "that they might not be hurt with an idea of too great obligation. It somewhat more than paid me for the expense I had been at in the business."
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