William Hunter 1718-1783

William Hunter was born at Long Calderwood Farm near Glasgow in 1718. He was educated at Glasgow University in 1731 and later studied medicine at Edinburgh.

In 1741, he moved to London. William Hunter quickly became well known as a physician, especially as an obstetrician and built up a distinguished clientele, which included members of the Royal Family.

In London, he pioneered the teaching of anatomy, was a leader in the development of midwifery and was one of the most respected and fashionable accoutres with a clientele which included the highest ranks of society.

He was appointed Physician in Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte in 1762 and assisted in the births of two future British kings, George IV and William IV.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1767 and was appointed as the first Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy of Arts founded by George III in 1768.

In 1768 he opened a medical school at his house in Great Windmill Street.

The same year Hunter also became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

In 1774, he published his extraordinary and still respected The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus.

Foreign Associateship of the Royal Society of Medicine Paris and the Academy of Sciences Paris followed in 1780 and 1782


He also established himself as a teacher of surgery and anatomy, and assembled a collection of anatomical and pathological specimens, which were used to support his teaching work.

As his reputation - and wealth - grew, Hunter also collected works of art as well as coins, books, manuscripts and curiosities.

It was said at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1782 that William Hunter’s coin cabinet was second only to that of the King of France.

It was indeed the best in Britain, surpassing even the royal collection of King George III. The 18th century saw the growth of many cabinets assembled by professional men of the Church, Law and Medicine but few matched the great aristocratic collections. Thus, Hunter’s cabinet was exceptional, but he was an exceptional man. 257


After his death in 1783 William Hunter bequeathed his entire collection to Glasgow University, where it formed the basis of the Hunterian Museum which opened in 1807.



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