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John Hunter

John Hunter (1728-1793), the celebrated surgeon and anatomist, was originally interred in St Martin in the Fields church in London. When burials were being removed from that church his remains were moved to Westminster Abbey at the instigation of Frank Buckland, son of William Buckland a former Dean of Westminster.

Hunter lies under a brass, by Hardmans of Birmingham, set in pink Peterhead granite in the north aisle of the nave.

The inscription reads:

Beneath are deposited the remains of John Hunter. Born at Long Calderwood Lanarkshire N.B. [North Britain ie. Scotland] on the 13th of February 1728. Died in London on the 16th of October 1793. His remains were removed from the Church of St Martins in the Fields to this Abbey on the 28th of March 1859. The Royal College of Surgeons of England have placed this Tablet over the grave of Hunter to record their admiration of his genius as a gifted interpreter of the Divine Power and Wisdom at work in the Laws of Organic Life, and their grateful veneration for his service to mankind as the Founder of Scientific Surgery.

In the top surround is "O Lord how manifold are Thy works!" and at the base "in wisdom hast Thou made them all", from Psalm 104. At each corner are symbols of the Evangelists and in a canopy is shown a coat of arms. Hunter did not possess arms of his own and this shield is thought to be made up from arms of earlier Hunter and Home families.

John was the youngest of ten children of John Hunter (d.1741) and his wife Agnes (Paul), and was descended from an old Ayrshire family. Young John moved to London to join his brother William (1718-1783) at his anatomy school. He served in the army and became a skilful surgeon. In 1767 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He married Anne (1742-1821), daughter of Robert Home. Their son John (d.1838) also entered the army.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

"The reinterment of John Hunter's remains in Westminster Abbey and the memorial brass erected over his grave" by G. McHardy in Journal of Medical Biography vol. 26, 2018

Brother William has a memorial in St James church, Piccadilly in London

Born

13th February 1728

Died

16th October 1793

Buried

28th March 1859

Occupation

Scientist; physician; doctor

Location

Nave

Memorial Type

Grave

Material Type

Brass

John Hunter
John Hunter by John Jackson, after Sir Joshua Reynolds

© National Portrait Gallery, London [Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]

John Hunter
John Hunter brass

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

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