HUNTER, JOHN, was born in 1728, at Long Calderwood, iu Kilbride, a village near Glasgow, where his father possessed a small farm. Being the youngest of ten children, and his father dying when he was very young, his education was almost entirely neglected. His whole time was devoted to the amusements of the country till he was seventeen years old, when he went to stay with his brother-in law Mr. Buchanan, who was a cabinet-maker at Glasgow, and who needed his assistance to extricate him from some pecuniary difficulties. Hunter worked at the trade for nearly three years, and probably thus acquired much of his manual dexterity. At the end of that time, hearing of the great success which his brother [HUNTER, WILLIAM] had met with in London as an anatomical and surgical lecturer, he wrote to offer him his services as assistant in the dissecting rooms. His offer was accepted, and in 1748 he commenced his anatomical studies, in which he at once distinguished himself both by his ardour and his skilL In 1749 Hunter became the pupil of Cheselden, then surgeon to Chelsea Hospital, where he attended for nearly two years, and iu 1751 he went to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and attended the practice of Mr. Pott. In 1753 he entered as a gentleman-commoner at St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, intending to practise as a physician; but he seems aeon after to have given up this idea, for in 1754 he entered as a surgeon's pupil at St. George's liaTital, in the hope of becoming at some future time a surgeon to that insti tution. In the same year his brother made him his partner in the school, and he delivered a part of each annual course of lectures till 1759, when his constant and severe labours iu anatomy, to which he had lately added comparative anatomy and physiology, began to affect his health eo seriously that it became advisable for him to resort to some milder climate. With this view he obtained an appointment as staff-surgeon, and early in 1761 proceeded to Belle-Isle with the arma ment ordered to lay siege to that town. He afterwards went to the Peninsula, and remained in active duty till the end of 1763, when a peace was negociated, and, his health being completely restored, he returned to London, and commenced practice.
At first Hunter met with little success in his profession ; the roughness of his roamers, the consequence In part of his hasty disposition, but more of his deficient education, prevented him from rising In publie estimation. Besides, be paid but little attention to his practice, regarding it, as be always did, only as a source from which be might obtain the means of carrying on the selentifie inves tigations to which be was far more attached, and which ho had steadily pursued while in the army. To defray the expenses which
these entailed, be egaiu commenced lecturing on anatomy and surgery; but notwithstanding the talent and extensive knowledge which his lectures evince, they were little appreciated, and he never had a class of more than twenty pupils, so that he was constantly obliged to borrow money for the purchase of animals and other similar pur poses, after he had spent on them all that he did not require for the actual necessaries of life. Every year however added to his repu tation, and in 1767 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1763 surgeon to St. George's Hospital. The latter appointment was of the greatest value to him; it increased his income, both by adding to his surgical reputation, and by enabling him to take pupils, from Whom he received large fees. Among his pupils were Jenner, with whom he remained throughout his life on terms of the closest intimacy, and Sir Everard Home, whose sister he afterwards married. From the time of his appointment to St. George's, Hunter's life was occupied with a constant and laborious investigation of every, branch of natural history and .comparative anatomy, physiology, and pathology, to all of which he devoted every hour that he could snatch from the requirements of an increasing surgical practice. In 1773 he suffered from the first attack of the disease of the heart, of which he ultimately died. He had a severe spasm of the chest, and remained pnbelets and cold, though perfectly sensible, for three-quarters of au hour. For many years after however his health seemed pretty good, and he was subject to slighter returns of the disease only when much excited or fatigued ; but in 1785 the attacks became more frequent, and be was obliged to leave London.. In the following years be became gradually more debilitated, and the slightest fit of anger, to which he was unfortunately prone, was sufficient to induce severe spasm.. In October 1793 he was engaged in warm disputes with his colleagues at the hospital ; and a remark being made by one of them at a meeting of the governors, which Hunter regarded as an insult, he left the room that he might repress or at least conceal his rage, and had scarcely entered the adjoining apartment, when he fell dead iu the arms of Dr. Robertson, one of the physicians of the hospital.