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John Hunter letter to Edward Jenner


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John Hunter FRS (13 February 1728 – 16 October 1793) was a Scottish surgeon, one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day. He was an early advocate of careful observation and scientific method in medicine. He was a teacher of, and collaborator with, Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine. He is alleged to have paid for the stolen body of Charles Byrne, and proceeded to study and exhibit it against the deceased's explicit wishes. His wife, Anne Hunter (née Home), was a poet, some of whose poems were set to music by Joseph Haydn.

He learned anatomy by assisting his elder brother William with dissections in William's anatomy school in Central London, starting in 1748, and quickly became an expert in anatomy. He spent some years as an Army surgeon, worked with the dentist James Spence conducting tooth transplants, and in 1764 set up his own anatomy school in London. He built up a collection of living animals whose skeletons and other organs he prepared as anatomical specimens, eventually amassing nearly 14,000 preparations demonstrating the anatomy of humans and other vertebrates, included 3,000+ animals.

Hunter became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1767. The Hunterian Society of London was named in his honour, and the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons preserves his name and his collection of anatomical specimens. It still contains the illegally procured body of Charles Byrne, despite ongoing protests.

In 1768, Hunter 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 1771, he married Anne Home, daughter of Robert Boyne Home and sister of Sir Everard Home. They had four children, two of whom died before the age of five.

In 1783, Hunter moved to a large house in Leicester Square. The space allowed him to arrange his collection of nearly 14,000 preparations of over 500 species of plants and animals into a teaching museum. The same year, he acquired the skeleton of the 2.31 m (7' 7") Irish giant Charles Byrne against Byrne's clear deathbed wishes—he had asked to be buried at sea. Hunter bribed a member of the funeral party (possibly for £500) and filled the coffin with rocks at an overnight stop, then subsequently published a scientific description of the anatomy and skeleton. "He is now, after having being stolen on the way to his funeral," says Muinzer, "on display permanently as a sort of freak exhibit in the memorial museum to the person who screwed him over, effectively." The skeleton, today, with much of Hunter's surviving collection, is in the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

In 1786, he was appointed deputy surgeon to the British Army and in March 1790, he was made surgeon general by the then Prime Minister, William Pitt.[20] While in this post, he instituted a reform of the system for appointment and promotion of army surgeons based on experience and merit, rather than the patronage-based system that had been in place.

Hunter's death in 1793 was due to a heart attack brought on by an argument at St George's Hospital concerning the admission of students. He was originally buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields, but in 1859 was reburied in the north aisle of the nave in Westminster Abbey.

Taken from: "John Hunter (surgeon)." Wikipedia. Accessed 19 April 2019.

Edward Jenner, FRS FRCPE[1] (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was an English physician and scientist who was the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, the world's first vaccine. The terms "vaccine" and "vaccination" are derived from Variolae vaccinae (smallpox of the cow), the term devised by Jenner to denote cowpox. He used it in 1796 in the long title of his Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae known as the Cow Pox, in which he described the protective effect of cowpox against smallpox.

Jenner is often called "the father of immunology", and his work is said to have "saved more lives than the work of any other human". In Jenner's time, smallpox killed around 10 percent of the population, with the number as high as 20 percent in towns and cities where infection spread more easily. In 1821 he was appointed physician extraordinary to King George IV, and was also made mayor of Berkeley and justice of the peace. A member of the Royal Society, in the field of zoology he was the first person to describe the brood parasitism of the cuckoo.

Jenner was also elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1802, and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1806. In 1803 in London, he became president of the Jennerian Society, concerned with promoting vaccination to eradicate smallpox. The Jennerian ceased operations in 1809. Jenner became a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Society on its founding in 1805 (now the Royal Society of Medicine) and presented several papers there. In 1808, with government aid, the National Vaccine Establishment was founded, but Jenner felt dishonoured by the men selected to run it and resigned his directorship.

Returning to London in 1811, Jenner observed a significant number of cases of smallpox after vaccination. He found that in these cases the severity of the illness was notably diminished by previous vaccination. In 1821, he was appointed physician extraordinary to King George IV, and was also made mayor of Berkeley and justice of the peace. He continued to investigate natural history, and in 1823, the last year of his life, he presented his "Observations on the Migration of Birds" to the Royal Society.

Jenner was found in a state of apoplexy on 25 January 1823, with his right side paralysed. He never fully recovered and eventually died of an apparent stroke, his second, on 26 January 1823, aged 73. He was buried in the Jenner family vault at the Church of St. Mary, Berkeley.

Taken from: "Edward Jenner." Wikipedia. Accessed 19 April 2019.

Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Finding Aid Author
Chrissie Perella
Finding Aid Date
April 2019

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