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J R Soc Med. 2001 May; 94(5): 260.
PMCID: PMC1281473

John Hunter's teachings on gunshot wounds

J Rosenberg, Hon. Curator

Professor Ellis (January 2001 JRSM, pp. 43-45) quotes from Sir Everard Home that Hunter's poor health led to his enlisting in the Army in 1760. This is the popular view also cited by Beasley1. It is possible that this is an erroneous opinion akin to that previously perpetuated regarding the cause of Hunter's death—as syphilitic aortitis acquired in the dissecting room, when in fact he died of ischaemic heart disease. An alternative view proposed by Dobson2 is that Hunter enlisted in the Army primarily to advance his career. This seems more plausible considering the great risks from both injury and disease attendant on military service—a topic considered by Dr Gordon Cook in the subsequent issue of the JRSM.

Another point, as discussed by Oppenheimer3, is the controversy surrounding the relationship between Home and Hunter. Home, who destroyed Hunter's manuscripts and has been accused of plagiarism, might well have had nefarious reasons for impugning Hunter's health.


1. Beasley AW. Fellowship of Three. Kangaroo Press, 1993
2. Dobson J. John Hunter. Edinburgh: Livingstone, 1969
3. Oppenheimer JM. New Aspects of John and William Hunter. 1. Everard Home and the Destruction of the John Hunter Manuscripts. London: Heinemann, 1946

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press