Logo: Silhouette of William Hunter

The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery
William Hunter: biography


William Hunter is celebrated particularly as an anatomist. He was a highly successful man-widwife, or accoucheur, and it was in the anatomy of childbirth that he specialised as a researcher. From roughly the same time as he began his own anatomy school (he opened his school in Londonís Covent Garden in 1749) he began to teach anatomy to artists at the St Martinís Lane Academy. Hunter was always well connected, and it was natural that he was member of a group that petitioned in the 1750s for the founding of a Royal Academy of Arts. When the Royal Academy was established in 1768 the position of Professor of Anatomy was created for him, recognising his knowledge of art, and his long experience of teaching to artists. The earliest documented acquisitions of art date from the early 1750s, with most works being bought in the 1770s after the construction of Hunterís purpose-built House, Anatomy theatre and Museum in Great Windmill Street, London.

His major achievements include...

1718 Born 23rd May, at East Kilbride near Glasgow
1731 Matriculates at the University of Glasgow
1736 Leaves University of Glasgow without graduating.
1737 Studies surgery in Hamilton with William Cullen; attends Alexander Monro's anatomy lectures in Edinburgh
1740 Moves to London and studies midwifery with William Smellie
1743 Beginning of lucrative practice as physician and accoucheur in London
1747 First anatomical lectures; elected member of Corporation of Surgeons
1748 Travels to Leiden and Paris; assisted in London by his brother John, later a celebrated surgeon
1749 Opens anatomy school in Covent Garden, London
1750 Robert Strange returns from France to supervise engraving of Hunter's Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus
1751 First lectures on anatomy at St. Martin's Lane Academy
1754 Purchases works of art from the sale of Dr Richard Mead's collection
1756 Purchases a "Rembrandt" landscape (by Koninck)
1758 Elected member of the Society of Arts
1760 First exhibition of paintings hosted by the Society of Arts
1762 Appointed Physician in Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte
1764 Hunter's portrait painted by Allan Ramsay
1765 Hunter's portrait painted by Robert Edge Pine (Hunterian Museum, London)
1767 Builds house with school and museum in Great Windmill St. Fellow of Royal Society
1768 The Royal Academy of Arts is founded; appointed Professor of Anatomy, and made Fellow of Society of Antiquaries.
1769 First Royal Academy lectures; commissions painting of Nilgai from George Stubbs.
1771 Buys large group of paintings from Christie's auction of collection formed by Robert Strange.
1774 Publishes Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus
1780 Royal Academy summer exhibition held for first time at Somerset House
1783 Dies in London, 30th March. Anatomy school continues under nephew, Matthew Baillie.
1807 Collections brought to Glasgow, and Hunterian Museum opens - the first in Britain with a gallery of paintings