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Description: William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum
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PublisherYale Center for British Art
https://doi.org/10.37862/aaeportal.00250.001
William Hunter: A Chronology
Seren Nolan
DATES
LIFE
WORK
COLLECTIONS
CONTEXTS
1718
Born 23 May at Long Calderwood, now East Kilbride, Scotland, to Agnes and John Hunter.
1721
Birth of Dorothea Hunter (1727–1806), William’s sister.
Sir Robert Walpole (1676–1745) becomes the first prime minister of Great Britain.
1727
George I (1660–1727) dies and is succeeded by the second Hanoverian King, George II (1683–1760).
1728
Birth of John Hunter (1728–1793), William’s brother.
1729
Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) is awarded the Chair of Moral Philosophy at University of Glasgow.
1730
Robert Foulis (1707–1776) matriculates at University of Glasgow.
1731
Matriculates at University of Glasgow to study theology.
1732
Robert Wood (1716/17–1771) matriculates at University of Glasgow.
1736
Leaves University of Glasgow without graduating.
1737
Begins training as a surgeon in Hamilton, Scotland, with William Gullen (1710–1790).
1739
Makes acquaintance of Edinburgh engravers Richard Cooper (1701–1764) and Robert Strange (1721–1792).
Attends anatomy lectures given by Alexander Monro primus (1697–1767) in Edinburgh.
Great Britain declares war on Spain and the War of Jenkins’ Ear begins. • Thomas Coram establishes the Foundling Hospital in London.
1740
Moves to London.
Begins midwifery apprenticeship under William Smellie (1697–1763). • Attends the courses of John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683–1744) on natural philosophy and Frank Nicholls (1699–1778) on anatomy.
1741
Death of Hunter’s father, John. • Begins residence with physician James Douglas (1675–1742). • Through Douglas, meets Dr Richard Mead (1673–1754).
Becomes anatomy assistant to Douglas at St Martin’s Lane Academy and tutor to Douglas’s son, William George. • Assists Douglas with plates for his “Osteologia universalis” (unpublished). • Studies surgery at St George’s Hospital. • Attends his first meeting at the Royal Society.
Robert Foulis opens a bookshop at the University of Glasgow with his brother Andrew (1712–1775). • Publication of Essays, Moral and Political by David Hume (1711–1776).
1742
Death of James Douglas. • Leaves London to begin period of study in Paris. • William’s older brother James joins Douglas household.
1743
James Hunter returns to Scotland due to poor health.
First essay submitted to the Royal Society, “On the Structure and Diseases of Articulating Cartilages”. • In Paris, studies surgery with Henri François Le Dran (1685–1770) and anatomy with Antoine Ferrein (1693–1769).
Buys prints in Paris for his brother James.
French defeated by British-Austrian coalition at Dettingen, Germany, in the War of the Austrian Succession.
1744
Returns from Paris to London; continues residence with Douglas family.
France declares war on Great Britain.
1745
Death of James Hunter (1717–1745).
Jacobite Rebellion is launched in Scotland against George II and Hanoverian dynasty. • John Stuart, third Earl of Bute (1713–1792), moves to London from Scotland. • John Anderson (1726–1796) graduates from the University of Glasgow.
1746
Advertises first anatomy course: a series of lectures at the Society of Naval Surgeons, Covent Garden, London.
After the defeat of Scottish forces at Culloden, Prince Charles Edward Stuart is driven into exile. Robert Strange is among those Jacobite sympathisers forced to flee. • Death of Francis Hutcheson.
1747
Admitted to the Company of Surgeons.
Third Earl of Bute becomes associate of Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III.
1748
Visits Leiden and Paris. • On his return from the Continent, Hunter is joined in London by his younger brother, John.
In Leiden, makes acquaintance of anatomists Petrus Camper (1722–1789) and Bernhard Siegfried Albinus (1697–1770). • Sees Willem Noortwyk’s (c. 1713–1777) preparation of human gravid uterus, showing maternal blood in placenta. • After his return from the Continent, appointed temporary man-midwife, Middlesex Hospital, London.
1749
Moves from the Douglas family home, with John Hunter, to a house in Covent Garden with room for lecturing facilities.
Appointed Surgeon Accoucheur, British Lying-In Hospital, London (appointment held until 1759).
1750
Visits Scotland.
Returns to University of Glasgow to be awarded Doctor of Physic, 24 October. • Made burgess and guild brother of the City of Edinburgh. • Makes first dissection of a full-term human gravid uterus. • Artists including Jan van Rymsdyk (d. 1790) start making drawings for The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus. • Strange appointed to supervise engravings for the Gravid Uterus.
Probably purchases two “Rembrandt” paintings at Blackwood sale, February.
1751
Death of mother, Agnes; Hunter does not return to Scotland for her funeral.
Presents lectures in anatomy at St Martin’s Lane Academy. • Makes plaster model of standing flayed figure (écorché) for use in anatomical teaching.
Subscribes to engravings after paintings by William Hogarth (1697–1764), Paul before Felix and Moses Brought to Pharaoh's Daughter.
Antiquarians James Dawkins and Robert Wood reach Palmyra, Syria. • Publication of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie.
1752
Hunter’s sister, Dorothea, moves to London to reside with him. • Petrus Camper visits Hunter in London.
Advertises a subscription for The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus. • Engravings after Rymsdyk’s illustrations of the Gravid Uterus first exhibited in London.
Subscribes to Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty.
1753
Death of Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). • Robert and Andrew Foulis found the Academy of the Fine Arts, University of Glasgow. • British Museum established by Act of Parliament. • Publication of Robert Wood’s Ruins of Palmyra.
1754
Publication of The Retroverted Uterus.
Purchases Egyptian mummy, portrait paintings, books, and anatomical drawings at sales of Dr Richard Mead’s collection (1754–55).
Beginning of the French and Indian War in North America, involving British colonies. • First meeting of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce, London. • Death of Dr Richard Mead.
1755
Corresponds with group of artists, led by Francis Hayman (1707–1776), proposing to set up a royal academy of arts. • John Hunter attends Oxford University.
Elected as a member of the Royal College of Physicians (although never elected fellow).
Publication of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s Gedanken and Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. • William Cullen moves to Edinburgh.
1756
Moves from Covent Garden to Jermyn Street with sister, Dorothea.
Lectures continue in Covent Garden, now given jointly with John Hunter. • Leaves Company of Surgeons to become a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.
Purchases a “Rembrandt” landscape (by Philips Koninck) at Blackwood sale.
Great Britain declares war on France; beginning of Seven Years’ War. • Publication of Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.
1757
Dorothea Hunter marries the Reverend James Baillie (c. 1723–1778), later professor of divinity at the University of Glasgow. • Dorothea and James Baillie sit for pendant portraits by Robert Edge Pine (1730–1788).
Becomes a governor of St George’s Hospital. • Publication of The History of an Aneurysm of the Aorta.
John Anderson is appointed to the Chair of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. • Publication of Wood’s Ruins of Balbec.
1758
Becomes member of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. • American physician William Shippen (1736–1808) comes to London to study under William and John Hunter.
Publication of Julien-David Le Roy’s Ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce.
1759
Appointed consultant physician to the City of London Lying-In Hospital.
Opening of the British Museum.
1760
Birth of Agnes Baillie (1760–1861), Hunter’s niece.
First exhibition of paintings hosted by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. • Accession to throne of George III (1738–1820); marriage to Charlotte, Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818). • Robert Mylne (173–1811) begins building London’s Blackfriars Bridge (completed 1769). • Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy published.
1761
Birth of Matthew Baillie (1761–1823), Hunter’s nephew and heir. • Hunter receives Glasgow painter William Cochran (1738–1785), en route to Rome. • John Hunter leaves anatomy school to become surgeon’s mate in the army.
Recommended to George III for the care of pregnant Queen Charlotte. • Spring, Hunter announces an end to his lectures; autumn, the lectures are given gratis.
First exhibition of the Society of Artists of Great Britain. • Allan Ramsay made Painter in Ordinary to the King. • Collected works of Voltaire translated by Tobias Smollett. • Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Della magnificenza e d’architettura de’ Romani published.
1762
Birth of Joanna Baillie (1762–1851), playwright and poet, Hunter’s niece.
Appointed Physician Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte. • Proposes the foundation of anatomy school and museum to the Earl of Bute. • Publication of Medical Commentaries. • Winter lecture course given by Hunter and William Hewson at the Chelsea China Warehouse near Piccadilly.
Purchases Mead’s portrait of Dr William Harvey (1578–1657). • Michael Henry Spang (d. 1762) exhibits wax reduction of Hunter’s écorché at the Society of Artists second exhibition. • Purchases Andrea Casali’s Danaë and the Golden Shower.
Third Earl of Bute appointed prime minister. • Publication of Horace Walpole’s Anecdotes of Painting in England; James Stuart and Nicholas Revett’s Classical Antiquities of Athens; Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Du contrat social; Allan Ramsay’s The Investigator.
1763
Lectures at Litchfield Street.
Purchases Rubens’s Head Study of an Old Man with Curly Beard, probably from Waldegrave sale.
Treaty of Paris ends Seven Years’ War. • Earl of Bute resigns as prime minister, succeeded by George Grenville (1712–1770).
1764
Hunter commissions William Mylne (1734–1790), Robert’s younger brother, to design bridge over the River Clyde (now known as Jamaica Bridge). • Probably sits for portrait by Allan Ramsay in this year or early 1765.
Awarded Freedom of the City by Glasgow.
Elizabeth, Lady St Aubyn (d. 1796), gives Hunter a collection of Cornish ores, beginning his natural history collection.
Publication of Robert Adam’s Ruins of the Palace of Diocletian; Winckelmann’s History of Ancient Art; Voltaire’s La Henriade. • Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803) arrives in Naples.
1765
Discusses with William Cullen building a “School for Physick upon a noble plan at Glasgow”. • Former student William Shippen writes to Hunter about setting up a school of anatomy in Philadelphia. • Purchases Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Lady Taking Tea.
Commissions Robert Mylne to build museum and anatomy theatre into house at 16 Great Windmill Street, London. • Begins collecting mineral specimens.
The Stamp Act is passed by Parliament, imposing a direct tax on all paper used in the American colonies.
1766
Acquires curved spine fragment from painter Samuel de Wilde (1751–1832).
Publication of George Stubbs’s Anatomy of the Horse.
1767
Hunter joins march on the Royal College of Physicians to protest the exclusion of non-English graduates from fellowship. • Johann Christian Fabricius (1745–1808), the Danish entomologist, visits London and becomes acquainted with Hunter and his collection.
Elected fellow of the Royal Society. • Steward of the Society of Collegiate Physicians, an association founded to “promote the Science of Physic”, especially by supporting those excluded by birth or education from the Royal College of Physicians.
Lectures commence at the Great Windmill Street anatomy theatre. • Known by now to own paintings by Kneller, Reynolds, Rubens, and Zuccarelli.
Rousseau visits England. • Last volume of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy published. • Publication of Pierre d’Hancarville’s Collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities, a catalogue of Sir William Hamilton’s cabinet in Naples. • Publication of Winckelmann’s Monumenti antichi inediti.
1768
Hunter and his collection move from Jermyn Street to the Great Windmill Street site.
Appointed professor of anatomy to the Royal Academy of Arts upon its establishment. • Elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Opening of Hunter’s museum at Great Windmill Street. • In a letter to William Cullen, Hunter says he is “now collecting in the largest sense of the word”. • Marked increase in painting collection.
Establishment of the Royal Academy of Arts. • Captain James Cook (1728–1779), Joseph Banks (1743–1820), and Daniel Solander (1733–1782) sail to the South Seas, returning in 1771. Hunter among the ardent supporters of the voyage.
1769
Sits for Royal Academy portrait by Mason Chamberlin (1727–1787), April.
Gives first anatomy lectures to Royal Academy, October.
Commissions George Stubbs (1724–1806) to paint The Nilgai. • Purchases books from the Gaignat sale in Paris for I,000 guineas.
First Royal Academy exhibition opens at Pall Mall. • Robert Strange’s exhibition “A Collection of Pictures” at St Martin’s Lane.
1770
George White, paviour and artist’s model, lives for a time at Great Windmill Street.
Begins large-scale collecting of Greek and Roman coinage with purchase of William Dawe’s numismatic collection. • Commissions The Moose from Stubbs.
1771
Marriage of John Hunter and Anne Home (1742–1821).
Makes a plaster écorché for the Royal Academy. • Delivers paper to the Royal Society on the “Nylghau” (nilgai), during which Stubbs’s Nilgai is displayed on an easel behind him.
Purchases seventeen paintings from Strange’s “Old Masters” sale at Christie’s, including Rembrandt’s Sketch for the Entombment. • Employs William Cruikshank (1745–1800) as museum assistant, initially to look after the library.
Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) paints The Academicians of the Royal Academy • Death of Robert Wood.
1772
Johan Zoffany paints William Hunter Lecturing (left unfinished when he departs for Rome in this year).
Purchases three paintings from another of Strange’s sales. • Album of anatomical drawings by Pietro da Cortona gifted by Sir William Hamilton.
Parliament approves British Museum’s purchase of Sir William Hamilton’s vase collection (its first acquisition of antique materials). • James Bruce (1730–1794) traces source of Blue Nile. • Captain Cook launches second voyage (returns 1775).
1774
Edward Burch casts medal of Hunter.
Publication of Anatomia uteri humani gravidi tabulis illustrata / The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus Exhibited in Figures.
1775
Delivers lectures to the Royal Society on “The Origin of Venereal Disease”.
Last known purchase of paintings, from Strange sale at Christie’s. • Strange publishes engraving of Hunter’s painting attributed to Salvator Rosa (1615–1673). • Hunter’s museum houses collection of curiosities from travels of James Bruce.
American War of Independence begins. • Sir Ashton Lever’s (1729– 1788) museum established at Leicester Square. • Artefacts from James Cook’s second voyage enter British Museum, Ashmolean Museum, and European collections.
1776
Agostino Carlini (1718–1790) makes bronze cast of écorché in the pose of the Dying Gaul, known as Smugglerius. • Death and dissection of Queen Charlotte’s elephant.
Purchases prints from Mariette sale in Paris, through Strange. • Purchases Matthew Duane’s (1707–1785) coin collection.
American Declaration of Independence. • Sir William Chambers (1723–1796) designs and builds Somerset House. • Captain Cook launches third voyage (returns 1780). • Death of David Hume. • Edward Gibbon (1737–1794) publishes The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Adam Smith (1723–1790), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
1777
Employs Royal Academy student Frederick Birnie (fl. 1777–1792) as draftsman. • German anatomist Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel (1755–1803) studies under William and John Hunter in London. He is later made professor of anatomy at University of Halle (c. 1779).
Hunter acquires Etruscan vases and ancient coin collection from widow of John Swinton (1703–1777).
1778
Death of Hunter’s brother-in-law, Rev James Baillie.
Exchanges duplicate coins with the Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy (1716–1795), curator of French Royal Cabinet.
Publication of Piranesi’s Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi, Sarcofagi . . . • Publication of Jan van Rymsdyk’s Museum Brittanicum.
1779
Matthew Baillie at Balliol College, Oxford. Hunter supervises his nephew’s education.
James Barry (1741–1806) paints Hunter for inclusion in series of canvases for the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce.
Frederick Birnie and Charles Taylor (1756–1823) begin drawings of coin and medal collection.
Painter Johan Zoffany returns to London from Rome.
1780
Matthew Baillie living with Hunter in London.
Cataloguing of collection begins. • Purchases collection of shells, corals, and insects from John Fothergill (1712–1780). • John Anderson visits Hunter in London to discuss bequest of collection (or 1781).
First Royal Academy exhibition at Somerset House.
1781
Elected president of the Society of Collegiate Physicians, London. • Becomes honorary member of newly founded Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Hunter writes will, bequeathing his collections to the University of Glasgow. • Hunter receives Fothergill’s collection of “corrals, shells and other curiosities of natural history (including insects)”.
Royal Academy schools move to Somerset House.
1782
Appointed foreign associate of the Académie des sciences, Paris. • Justus Christian Loder (1753–1832), professor of medicine at the University of Jena, visits Hunter and works with preparations in his collection.
Charles Combe (1743–1817) publishes catalogue of Hunter’s ancient coins. • Proposal made for catalogue of Anglo-Saxon coins. • Auction of “duplicate” shells from the collection.
1783
Hunter dies 30 March, aged sixty-four. • Buried in St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London.
George Fordyce (1736–1802), David Pitcairn (1749–1809), and Charles Combe appointed trustees of Hunter’s collections. • Fordyce begins cataloguing of minerals and other natural history objects. • Cabinet established for coins and medals.
1787
Posthumous portrait of Hunter commissioned from Sir Joshua Reynolds by University of Glasgow.
1793
Death of John Hunter.
1794
January, sale of John Hunter’s pictures at Christie’s.
17 99
Act of Parliament to purchase John Hunter’s collection and bequeath it to the Royal College of Surgeons, London.
1804
Scottish architect William Stark (1770–1813) commissioned to design and build the Hunterian Museum to house collection.
1807
The Hunterian Museum, Scotland’s first public museum, and the first museum in the United Kingdom with a gallery of paintings, opens at the University of Glasgow.
1813
Publication of Captain John Laskey’s General Account of the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.
1831
The anatomy school at Hunter’s house in London closes.
William Hunter: A Chronology
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