The Hunterian Museum in London was formed from the collection of the surgeon and anatomist John Hunter. He used the collection for teaching and research on a range of topics from the transplantation of teeth to the breeding of bees. After his death in 1793, the collection was bought by the Government and given to the Royal College of Surgeons (then known as the Company) in 1796.
From the age of 20, John worked as an anatomy assistant for his older brother William, who was already an established physician and obstetrician. In 1760, John was commissioned as an army surgeon in France and Portugal. Here he collected lizards and other animals. On his return to England in 1783 he placed the collection in a teaching museum. As his reputation grew, more specimens were sent to him, including a kangaroo brought back from James Cook’s voyage in 1768-71.
At the heart of the Hunterian Museum is an astonishing 18th century medical collection.
Today, the museum has more than 3,500 human and animal, anatomical and pathological specimens which have been collected over the last four centuries, including some from Edward Jenner and Sir Joseph Banks. Within its collection are surgical instruments from the 17th century, carbolic sprays used by Sir Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, and Winston Churchill’s dentures. It is a Designated Collection of national importance.
The Hunterian Museum in Glasgow is the private collection of William Hunter and is recognised as a Collection of National Significance. William studied surgery at the University of Glasgow and later became physician to Queen Charlotte in London. He built up a private collection and this was opened to the public in 1807, making it Scotland’s oldest museum. It includes anatomical and zoology collections, a 330 million year old Bearsden Shark, dinosaurs and scientific instruments used by James Watt, Sir Joseph Lister and Lord Kelvin as well as other collections of art, artefacts and coins.