John Hunter

John Hunter and the Hunterian Society

Sir William Blizard (1743-1835), a former pupil of John Hunter, became the first President of the Society. He eulogised John Hunter in no less than three Hunterian Orations given at the Royal College of Surgeons between 1815 and 1828.

It was almost certainly his prompting that the nascent Society adopted the name ‘Hunterian’, in preference to ‘The London Medical and Physical Society’ as originally proposed.

Blizard wanted to nurture the Society within the Hunterian tradition, a hope which he voiced with feeling in his Oration in 1826: ‘May the honoured name of Hunter ever have a magic influence on the minds of its members’.

Although Hunter made no fundamental discovery, he was, however, credited with transforming medicine and surgery by promoting research into all its aspects.

For example Richard Owen in an address to the Society in 1868 argued that the advanced state of medicine in his day was wholly the result of ‘methods of inquiry instituted by John Hunter’.

Later in the nineteenth century writers praised Hunter for seeking the physiological and pathological principles which were integral to life in health and disease, the outstanding example being his study of inflammation.