The Bust

This plaster bust offers a classicised portrait of John Hunter. It also appears to be a copy of the bust of Hunter by Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey which is held in the collections of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Sheffield–born Chantrey (1781 – 1841) had a studio in London where he sculpted busts and sculptures of some of Georgian England’s most notable figures including William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott and George III himself.

John Hunter (1728 - 1793)

John Hunter began his medical education in London under his elder brother William (1718-1783) who was an anatomy teacher and an accoucher. John became skilled at dissection and William appointed him as his assistant and prosector. However, despite studying at various locations, including St George’s Hospital, by 1760 Hunter, then aged 32, remained an assistant to his brother and unable to gain entry into the Company of Surgeons or practice as a surgeon in the city.

In October 1760 Hunter became a surgeon for the English army which was then fighting the Seven Years’ War with France. The position allowed Hunter to finally gain his formal qualification. Therefore when he returned to London in the wake of the war he was finally able to practice. On his return he initially joined the dental practice of James Spence. He also purchased a property at Earls Court where he kept a variety of exotic animals which he utilised, alongside other samples which he collected, for his study of comparative anatomy and physiology. His first major scientific work was A Treatise on the Natural History of the Human Teeth which appeared in 1771. From 1770 Hunter also began taking on students, the first of which was Edward Jenner. In 1783 he acquired a property at Leicester Fields (now Square) where he had both his practice and lecture hall.

Hunter was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1767 and received a Copley Medal in 1787. He produced a number of papers and treatises; his most important work was arguably his Treatise on the Blood, Inflammation, and Gunshot Wounds which was published posthumously in 1794.