Monthly Archives: April 2016

John Hunter and Scientific Surgery

John Hunter 1728-1793

John Hunter was one of the founders of scientific surgery. He studied human anatomy with his elder brother William, developed his skills as an army surgeon during the Seven Years War, and later opened a museum of specimens and an anatomy school in his house in London. Because of the better understanding of anatomy that emerged from the increase in human dissection of the 17th century, there were many surgical advances including improved instruments and much faster procedures. But there was still no true anaesthetic and little understanding of antiseptic measures. And so surgery remained dangerous, painful and often fatal.

The rapid urbanization meant that more almshouses were established to serve the old, the sick and the dying. Some were the forerunners of hospitals that became established in the next century. But for the most part people entering the poorhouses as sick indigent patients, died there. A very small number of free clinics served the poor and many patients looked far afield for help.